This week NASCAR showed its teeth when it penalized Noah Gragson for intentionally wrecking Sage Karam during the Xfinity Series race at Road America. However, based on the sanctioning body’s own language and reasoning, there should have been another penalty dispensed earlier this year in the Cup Series. The fact that there wasn’t shows how NASCAR penalties are pure hypocrisy.
Noah Gragson causes accident and NASCAR penalizes him
Even the greenest of NASCAR fans watching Saturday could see that Noah Gragson intentionally wrecked Sage Karam at Road America. It was that obvious.
After the race, the JR Motorsports driver admitted it was a retaliatory move.
“It’s one thing if you’re faster than someone but to throw it off in there and run you off the race track in the corner, door you, run you off the track,” Gragson said. “Finally, after the third time, I’m over it. It’s not the ideal situation for him and his team, but two or three times, I’m done with it.”
While everyone watching knew the move was deliberate, his postrace comments confirmed it. Despite those key pieces of evidence, NASCAR, which is also the judge, jury, and executioner, held off until Wednesday to hand down its penalty, which included a $35,000 fine and docking of 30 driver and 30 owner points.
The governing body said Gragson violated Sections 4.4.C&E of the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct. Section C says a member will be penalized for “intentionally wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result.” Section E states a member can be penalized for “actions by a NASCAR Member that NASCAR finds to be detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR.”
Joey Logano intentionally wrecked William Byron at Darlington and NASCAR did nothing
Flashback a couple of months ago to the Cup Series race at Darlington. Joey Logano and William Byron battled for the win, but that duel effectively ended on the white-flag lap when the No. 22 deliberately ran into the rear of the No. 24 and sent him into the wall.
Based on NASCAR’s rule for “intentionally wrecking,” that should have been enough to produce some sort of penalty for the Team Penske driver. It never happened.
But wait, there’s more.
After the race, like Gragson, Logano acknowledged what he did was intentional.
“You’re not gonna put me in the wall and not get anything back. That’s how that works,” Logano told Fox’s Regan Smith.
NASCAR didn’t penalize Logano.
Logano also made threats and nothing happened
The following week at Kansas, Logano was asked about the situation with Byron, and the 2018 Cup Series champion didn’t back down.
“What happened last week happened,” Logano said. “I got fenced. I stand by the same stuff I said last week. I got fenced. I retaliated and won the race. Like I said last week, that’s kind of how it works. I won’t get pushed around. In my book, we’re back to even. We reset and go again.”
When a reporter asked what he would think if Byron didn’t feel they were even, the Penske driver didn’t hesitate.
“Honestly, if he wants to keep going back and forth, I’ll keep swinging,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a good play for him in the long run. I feel like we’re even. He was willing to take the lead that way. I was willing to take the lead back the same way. He can keep going but I’ll promise you I’ll keep going, and I’ll go bigger every time.”
One could argue that Logano’s threat to “go bigger” and extend the conflict should be considered more serious than Gragson’s gross miscalculation at Road America that affected more than a dozen cars.
That begs the question: Did NASCAR opt to penalize Gragson because it was a bad look and his action affected so many cars?
We will likely never know the answer because NASCAR has a history of announcing a penalty with the corresponding rule broken, and never broaching the subject again. That’s more than likely what will happen here and everyone will be left to speculate.