By now the video is all over the place, and I’ve read tweets that it’s getting monster air on at least one morning TV show.
In case you missed it, after the NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, Jeff Gordon thought he had been done wrong on the track by Brad Keselowski. That’s what led to this ..
OK, a few things …
First, the mechanics of the fight (“scuffle” is more like it). The crew guys always get involved. I suppose that’s natural to “protect their guy,” but inevitably it goes all West Side Story and the crew guys set it all off by yanking on each other, which only adds to everyone's rage. So, if you get the crew guys out of the mix, the two drivers probably get all up in each other’s faces and yap for a while and it’s not that big of a deal, or at most it’s a hockey-like two guys punching deal.
Second, speaking of hockey … it’s hard for me to condemn this kind of stuff in NASCAR in particular while giving all other sports a pass. Nobody says "baseball is so WWF" when they have a bench-clearing brawl. Fights happen in every sport, and they’re PART of the sport in hockey. So hockey fans who have a big problem with this are being hypocritical, in my view. You have brawl-like events in basketball and baseball as well. Not regularly, but they do happen.
The difference is, of course, in all sports except hockey, there are big penalties for fighting. Not so in NASCAR, which we’ll get to.
Third, is this part of the NASCAR “brand?” I say yes. Hard racin’, moonshine-runnin’ good ole boys. Full-contact racing when the stakes are super high as they are in the NASCAR Chase for the Championship leads to this stuff.
Fourth, is NASCAR encouraging it? I’d say “tacitly.” No penalties for previous scuffles on the justification of “no punches thrown” seems at least a little disingenuous to me. I haven’t parsed the video enough to see if there was an actual “punch” (with a fist) thrown, let alone landed, in this one. There’s no way NASCAR sits anyone down for a race after this since both these guys are still eligible for the championship.
I reject any “staged” accusation for lack of evidence. Keselowski caused Gordon to spin (intentionally or not) so if it was “staged” then the script included Gordon getting turned and his title shot getting severely damaged. If it was between two people who were out of the race for the championship then the “staged” accusation would be a bit more plausible.
Fifth, third-man in is bullshit. Kevn Harvick needs to stay out of other people's fights. If you're going to have a hockey-like deal, then the third-man in needs to feel the pain, penalty wise, as he does in hockey.
Sixth, are you not entertained? Some are, some aren’t. Listen to the crowd roar when the scuffle breaks out. Welcome to THUNDERDOME! It reminds me of the roar of blood lust at a hockey game when a fight breaks out. And, look at us all talking about it, sharing the video (a quarter million views on the video I shared above by 8:30 a.m. Central). It's making national morning shows and probably the national TV news tonight. (I’ll tune in to NBC’s Brian Williams to see if he touches on it.) Regardless of what you think of the kerfuffle itself, the evidence is ample that it’s generating major interest. In general, publicity = cash.
Seventh, outrage or not? Depends on your personal preference. I’m kind of pragmatic here. I personally greatly dislike hockey fights and would be happy to see them banned, as they are in international hockey. Same deal here. But this sort of dust up (calling it a “fight” is an overstatement) didn’t really result in any injuries or real ugliness (no NASCAR equivalent of bloody ice, in other words), so I was like “oh look, they’re pushing and shoving” and that was about it. Neither joy nor UMBRAGE about it. Kind of a “that’s so NASCAR” reaction from me.
Eighth, marketing opportunity for NASCAR competitors, which they won't take. Again (and again), IndyCar is presented with an opportunity to be the anti-NASCAR and they walk away. No lawless “boys have at it” on the track and our drivers don’t assault each other in the pits. That, along with the road-and-street courses and relative lack of yellows, make IndyCar a clear alternative to NASCAR for those who dislike the beating and banging, on and off the track. The fly in the ointment there is the lack of ovals for IndyCar to attract the oval-centric NASCAR fan. You might get them to watch clean, high-speed, skill-not-brawling racing … but on a twisty track? Another fly in the ointment: I think a big majority of NASCAR fans love this kind of stuff.
Ninth, praise for passion. I don’t want to see pit brawling -- it strikes me as about as entertaining as a hockey fight -- but I would like to see more passion and UMBRAGE taken in IndyCar. Most IndyCar drivers -- and you might forcefully argue it’s to their credit -- don’t get pissed at each other, or even very pissed in general. That is to say they don’t SHOW that they are pissed. I’d welcome drivers throwing more stuff and saying another driver is a “dipshit,” as Gordon said of Keselowski Sunday night. Not sure if they restrain themselves because they personally think it’s better deportment, or because IndyCar will fine any flinging of equipment and "dipshit" bombs, or they think the sponsors will be pissed at them, or all of the above. But, I’d like to see a little more raw emotion in IndyCar, short of head locking someone.
But, on the other hand, see the eighth point above. IndyCar’s brand could be “the ladies’ and gentlemen’s racing league.” something like “racing, without all the bullshit.” Would that attract more fans? Great question.
Tenth, NASCAR’s reaction will be very interesting. Expect fines at the most. As I said, NO WAY NASCAR sits anyone down after this race. If they did, they’d have far larger attachments than I give them credit for. Maybe they sit someone for the first race of 2015. The rule in child rearing is this: “behavior that achieves the desired outcome will be repeated.” So, absent any real punishment, this behavior will continue. At least they didn’t go after each other in their cars this time, which is major safety progress.
So, net-net, long-story-short, end of the day: I was mildly amused. A hockey scrum broke out in the pits. A little bit of blood was drawn (looked like from scratches) and a lot of UMBRAGE was taken. It does set up a lot of anticipation for the final two races of the year, especially Phoenix next week which reports its grandstands are sold out. And then, after the final race at Homestead, there may be shots fired. Kidding … I hope.
Let me know what you thought if the whole deal below!