Keep in mind that UMBRAGE is good.
So, last week Charlotte turned into a Festival of Spider Monkeys when Brad Keselowski — who gives me an Eddie Haskell vibe, which might just be due to physical resemblance — got crazy at the end of the race and started bashing people on the cool down laps.
He even tagged Tony Stewart on pit road (-ish, technically on the apron coming into the pit, I guess) -- insert gasp here -- which caused Mr. Stewart to slap his car into reverse and back into Mr. Keselowski’s car in a classic butt-first demolition derby move.
THEN, there was Dukes of Hazzard-like driving through the pit road and Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin wantin’ a piece of Brad. Kenseth even managed to go for a headlock on Brad in between haulers. SUBMISSION HOLD! Ask him … Ask him … (vague pro wrestling reference there).
Well, when all the smoke (har) — and the 2,321 media stories and posted videos — cleared, NASCAR said (pro hockey arena announcer voice) “Here are the penalties …”
Brad got fined $50,000 and Tony got fined $25,000 for conduct unbecoming for the bashing on the apron. Sort of like off-setting unsportsmanlike penalties. Nobody else got fined. Story on the penalties here.
Cue the UMBRAGE …
- Tony Stewart, who has some of the most loyal and loving fans I have ever encountered, was decried by some as a victim of Keselowski and unjustly penalized. The Mainstream Media added to Hurricane Umbrage by doing stories that focused on Tony’s use of reverse to express displeasure and brought up Kevin Ward again.
- Nobody who scuffled or drove through the garage area in what I thought was an unsafe manner got penalized.
- NASCAR DECRIED AS FAUX! Those persons who see NASCAR as faux, “gimmicky,” inauthentic etc. etc. racing pointed to this as yet more proof of their position.
- "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” echoed across the landscape from those who think entertainment is good, regardless of the source.
- Concerns voiced about tamping down the emotion and passion in racing by fining emotional and passionate speech and action.
So I think …
- The fines for the bashing on the apron/pit road were justified. Boys Have at It does not extend to pit lane/waiting to enter pit lane. Unfortunate that Stewart was involved, but when he shifted into reverse and floored it he opened himself to a penalty.
- The fact that some media outlets (by no means all) seized on the incident and brought up the Kevin Ward situation is not shocking. Whether that angle is justified or not is a legit debate, but given how the real world works I would have been more surprised if some media somewhere didn't go down that road. I honestly said to myself "temper, temper" when Stewart backed into Keselowski. Just being honest with ya.
- No sanctions for reckless (IMO) driving through the garage is a mistake. That’s the behavior you WANT to discourage because it could get someone run over, soI would have spanked the offenders. Because cars are driven to and from garages in NASCAR, the garage area is legit dangerous during practice sessions and after races. You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel to stay out of the way of cars as it is, even if they aren't chasing each other around in anger --- in the dimly lit garage area.
- I WAS entertained. I admit that. People flying at each other like spider monkeys, you just don’t see that every day. Think about hockey fans who love fights. (Ironically, I get no entertainment from hockey fights and would be OK if they were BANNED, but that's another debate.)
- I don’t think displays of passion and emotion were harshed by NASCAR's penalties. Because nobody threw an actual punch, nobody got fined for the post-race pushing and shoving, which is consistent with previous no calls from NASCAR. And (thank you very much) the drivers actually talked with the media on the spot about what was up, expressing their umbrage about this and that, saying less-than-nice things about each other, and generally being passionate in a non-profane manner. No fine for that either.
For me, this is also more evidence that the new Chase playoff format is doing what NASCAR wants it to do: amp up intensity. Of course whether that’s a good goal is debatable, but if that IS the goal, then the new format is delivering.
Now we go to Talladega, a plate track that features the dreaded pack racing, where things get insane regularly and randomly. Add in this being an “elimination race” that cuts the field of championship contenders from 12 to 8 and you get desperate driving at Talladega. Somebody check the catch fences. It could break a record for the number of Big Ones in one race.
Whether this is all faux or “gimmicky” or ridiculous or not is a legit debate. But in my opinion the new Chase format is doing what NASCAR wants it to do, headlocks and all.