Tuesday, May 8, 2012
The Gander and the Goose
What’s good for the Gander is not, apparently, good for the Goose.
Tuesday – the day NASCAR typically hands down its fines and suspensions for infractions during the previous weekend’s races – came and went without a word about Danica Patrick turning Sam Hornish into the wall at 160 mph after the checkered flag in Saturday’s Nationwide series race at Talladega. The incident came after Hornish ran Patrick into the wall coming to the flag, Hornish claiming he had a tire going down. Hornish held on to 12th, Patrick finished 13th.
The incident was eerily similar to Kyle Busch turning Ron Hornaday, Jr., into the wall at Texas last year in retaliation for Hornaday running Busch into the wall. NASCAR reacted quickly in that case; immediatley parking Busch and suspending him the next day for both the Texas Nationwide and Sprint Cup races.
"When we gave the responsibility back to the drivers (‘boys have at it’), there was a clear understanding that a line could be crossed," Mike Helton, NASCAR’s president, said in Texas. "We've always said we would know it when we see it. We saw it last night."
But NASCAR apparently thought the Patrick/Hornish incident so trivial it didn’t even warrant a trip to its hauler for either driver after the race. Or perhaps officials were overwhelmed by the aftermath of four multi-car accidents, a red flag and a driver in the hospital. NASCAR has since said the incident didn’t go unnoticed and that both drivers will be talked to before the Darlington race. But it denied comparisons to the Busch/Hornaday clash.
Perhaps Busch was suspended and Patrick was not because he was considered a repeat offender. Perhaps it was because the incident took place after a caution flag had been displayed (rather than the checkered flag?). Perhaps it was because the wreck eliminated Hornaday from contention for the truck series championship. All of those could be reasons Busch was suspended and Patrick was not. Not very good reasons, but at least they’re reasons you could point to in an attempt to explain the situation.
Interviewed on Speed’s RaceDay prior to the start of the Sunday’s Cup race, Busch obviously didn’t want to be drawn into the discussion. Asked if the decision – or no decision – on penalties made sense to him, he asked a question in return. “Nothing really makes sense to any of us, does it?”
Hmmm. Has the line moved again? Will we know it when we see it next time? Maybe not.