Drivers react to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s $75K fight fine: ‘That seems wild to me’


CONCORD, N.C. — Chase Elliott had heard earlier in the week that NASCAR had fined Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for punching Kyle Busch.

Elliott didn’t pay much attention to it; he figured the fine was minimal for the fight that broke out last Sunday following the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Upon hearing on Friday it was $75,000, he seemed quite surprised.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “That seems wild to me.”

NASCAR wouldn’t comment on the severity of the fine — the biggest in NASCAR history to a driver for punching another driver — because Stenhouse has until late afternoon Tuesday to file an appeal. 

NASCAR typically doesn’t fine drivers for a punch thrown on pit road following a race in the heat of the moment after they get out of their cars. But Stenhouse had been knocked out of the race following contact with Busch on the second lap of the 200-lap race and confronted him at his hauler.

“When you wait 198 laps, and you make those decisions that were made, we’re going to react to that there,” NASCAR Senior Vice President Elton Sawyer said on the NASCAR channel on SiriusXM. “There could have been different decisions made once we start getting to the point where it gets physical.

“We want the two drivers to be able to have their time to do express their differences. But once it escalates to where there’s been a physical altercation — better decisions could have been made throughout that period of time between the incident that happened on the racetrack and the incident that happened in the garage postrace.”

The biggest argument potentially for a Stenhouse appeal was laid out by Elliott.

“You’re going to fine him, but you’re going to promote with it?” Elliott said. “Like what are we doing? That’s a little strange to me. … It’s not OK, but we’re going to blast it all over everything to get more clicks. I don’t really agree with that.”

NASCAR will point to its official website not having posted highlights of the fight since Monday on their social channels, that it was covered as part of the event with videos showing several angles of the fight in the 24 hours after it occurred. 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. says no decision yet on whether to appeal his $75,000 fine

While NASCAR controls its website, tracks that aren’t owned by NASCAR and television partners aren’t shy about using the video.

And Stenhouse certainly is getting a decent amount of publicity for it. He said Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that he had not yet decided whether he would appeal.

“We’re still undecided,” Stenhouse said. “We spent all week really focused on just racing here at Charlotte and what we needed to do to run well here, and we’ve got until next week to kind of figure that out.

“Our main focus was just getting back on track.”

Stenhouse appreciated the support from his fellow drivers.

“For the most part, the whole industry and fan base has kind of weighed in on the side that I feel I fall on,” Stenhouse said. “Luckily for us, we’re not having to say a whole lot. … I’d say 90 percent of the Cup field kind of thinks the same way and it seems to be about 95 percent of our fan base thinks the same way.

“So that’s nice to have all them in our corner. I don’t know if that helps or not — it’s still 75 grand that I’ve got to pay.”

Busch had no comment on whether the fine was appropriate.

“It doesn’t matter whether I agree or not — NASCAR makes the penalties,” Busch said.

Kyle Busch speaks on the fine given to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

It wouldn’t be a surprise that drivers want to be able to throw a punch and not get penalized — they know they might be in the position where they want to throw a punch.

“It’s very important to show emotions and to show personalities,” Daniel Suarez said. “We have had several conversations with many people at NASCAR in all different levels and the fans want to see personalities — they want to see emotions, they want to see who is Daniel Suarez, who is Ricky Stenhouse, who is Chase Elliott.

“In my mind, if we go on this route, eventually every single driver is going to be acting exactly the same because we can’t show anything. … I felt like it was as little bit excessive.”

Drivers probably are hoping Stenhouse appeals because if an appeals board upholds or adjusts the fine, it could set a precedent for how NASCAR reacts in similar situations.

“Whether it’s the car or restarts or altercations apparently, just let me know the rules is what I want to know,” said two-time Cup champion Joey Logano. “What is the price I’m about to pay if I make this decision and is it worth it?

“That’s really how it’s got to be is just looking for consistency in that to where it’s the same all the time, and I know it’s hard to do. That’s a lot to ask for because every situation could be a little bit different. It’s a judgment call. There’s no black and white. When you look at a post-ace altercation at what point is sometimes it’s OK and sometimes it’s not? I don’t know.”

Brad Keselowski has a theory of when fighting should and should not be allowed

Driver/co-owner Denny Hamlin said it is nothing new for NASCAR to fine something they promote.

“There’s certainly been things that they quietly like to root for, but publicly, they have to do something different because they don’t want it to get out of hand,” Hamlin said “With that dollar fine, you are going to have people think, ‘I don’t want that [fine]’ so you might not get what you probably are hoping for.’

“It might hurt a little bit in that instance. I think they’re OK with general altercations, but I think typically just the amount of time that elapsed from the [on-track] incident to when it happened.”

Brad Keselowski has a personal code that he thinks indicates whether a punch is worth it or not.

“I don’t know if I have or don’t have an opinion,” Keselowski said. “I just have this personal code that there shouldn’t be any fighting in the garage unless it’s in the top 10. If your wreck happens in the top 10, OK.

“If your wreck doesn’t happen in the top 10, there should be no fighting allowed. … If you’re not running in the top 10, I have to work on my own stuff, I don’t have time to be dealing with all this drama.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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