THREE CREW MEMBERS SUSPENDED FOR REST OF THE SEASON
On Monday morning, one of my weekend racing posts dealt with the conclusion of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Barrie Speedway on Saturday night and the unfortunate aftermath in which a fight broke out in the pits
This was not the first time this has happened, which is most unfortunate because this is supposed to be the top professional racing series in Canada and a degree of decorum is expected.
In any event, late Wednesday, NASCAR lowered the boom. Two drivers – J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge and Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert – were both placed on probation through the final race of the season at Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough on Sat., Sept. 24.
Three crew members – Matt Vanderwall, crew chief for Don Thomson Jr., Chad Turner, who also works for Thomson, and Josh Arnold, crew member for driver Jason Hathaway – were each fined $500, suspended from Canadian Tire competition for the last two races of the season and placed on NASCAR probation through to the end of the year.
All were guilty of actions detrimental to stock car racing, the drivers for aggressive driving and excessive speed on pit road after the race (Fitzpatrick was also cited for stopping in the pit box of another competitor) and the crew members for fighting.
I know that stock car racing is a contact sport. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been quoted as saying he "drives angry" most of the time when he’s in competition. I have the transcript of a tape in which Micks describes the inter-race battles he’s been having with Fitzpatrick and ends by saying: "Anyways, I don’t want to race that way, and it’s just too bad, but I don’t take any . . . ." And just about every time I see the highly emotional Fitzpatrick get out of a race car, he’s browned off at something or somebody.
So I get it.
But I also know that these guys hit the jackpot five years ago when NASCAR agreed to purchase CASCAR from founder Tony Novotny. At that moment, Canada’s national stock car series hit the big time. It wasn’t little CASCAR anymore; it was great big NASCAR and with it came everything that the name implies.
It gave the series legitimacy; it gave the series sophistication; it gave the series potential to connect with corporate Canada the same way the U.S. Sprint Cup series connects with corporate America.
Except I don’t think a lot of those guy realized that. I’m not sure they made the connection. Because if they had, they wouldn’t be fighting in the pits like they have been last year and this year.
I mean, how do they think the boards of directors of A&W, Canadian Tire, Castrol, Tim Hortons and many of the other sponsors react when see behaviour like that? How long do you think Rona and Scotiabank would be involved with the CFL if the games kept ending in brawls?
And, yes: there is a direct comparison there. The CFL is the top football league in the country and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series is the top racing series. So act accordingly.
Let’s hope NASCAR has delivered the proper message here. If not, the teams and drivers can start kissing some of those sponsorships goodbye - and the respect that goes with them.