Gentlemen, start your engines…and your fists

Mar 27, 2013, 7:18 PM | Updated: 7:24 pm

Did NASCAR penalize anyone in any way for the FFF – Fantastic Fontana Finish?

Of course not. Not even in the aftermath of a crash, a fight and a broken back. Why not?

That’s easy. Over the past few years, NASCAR ratings have been lagging and sagging. Television, ticket sales and corporate sponsorships have all waned. The sport has been in need of an overall turbo boost of popularity.

Hence, a couple years ago, the NASCAR suits (business suits, not race suits) announced a new policy fashioned around the longtime saying – “Boys, have at it.” In other words, if the road rage carries over to the garage area (Ex: PIR 2012 – Clint Bowyer vs Jeff Gordon) or payback is exacted in punching each other instead of the throttle, well, boys will be boys.

As longtime Valley resident and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk tweeted afterwards: “Drama always attracts fans and viewers.” Then, he added that “@dennyhamlin is lucky to survive that crash and @joeylogano is lucky to survive @tonystewart.”

Arie is talking about the FFFF on Sunday – Fantastic Fontana Fireworks Finish. After the checkered flag flew, so did the fisticuffs. Simply put, Stewart was more revved up than his race car. He left his four wheels behind for his own two legs and made a straight line for Logano. As expected, crew members separated the two drivers. After a straight right hand, Stewart brought the straight talk regarding the 22-year-old Logano.
“He’s sent Denny to the hospital and screwed our day up,” Stewart said. “He’s talked the talk, but he hasn’t walked the walk yet. He’s always got his crew guys walking the walk for him. He wants to talk about it? We’ll talk about it.

“If NASCAR wants to let the guys have at it, it shouldn’t be any different than hockey—let us have it and when one guy goes to the ground, it’s over,” Stewart said.

Hit the brakes right there! Maybe that’s the ticket that will sell tickets. Tweak the mantra that states “have at it, boys” to read “stand back and actually allow the boys to be boys, I’ll be gol-danged.”

“After he threw the water bottle at me like a little girl, we’ll go at it now. I’m not going to listen,” Stewart said. “I don’t care what he has to say. It’s just words right now. Actions speak louder than words.”

And so do TV ratings. NASCAR’s overnight TV ratings one week after Logano feuded with Denny Hamlin were up 32 percent, according to Fox.

Stewart was mighty angry. Thing is, the veteran NASCAR driver might’ve also been a visionary.

What’s that old business saying – see a need, fill a need. Well, with the NFL and NHL rapidly decreasing the violence and physicality in their respective sports, perhaps NASCAR needs to ramp it up?

Fans don’t connect with metal. They don’t bond with the vehicle itself. They share emotionally with other human beings — drivers.

At PIR last fall, I was covering NASCAR. All of a sudden, the grandstands roared upon the sight of Bowyer chasing after Gordon on the big screens, with the media then chasing after Bowyer (I’m still winded).

As Brad Keselowski told the media this past week, a fight is the type of “water cooler conversation” fans relish.

“Whether it is joy or anger, that is what the fans crave,” he said. “They want to see us be human, and humans are emotional.”

Hmmm. Maybe Stewart has hit on something by essentially scribbling “hockey fight” on a slip of paper and stuffing it into the suggestion box.

Meaning, speaking of boxes, maybe the time has come for NASCAR to install a penalty box.


Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Ford, leads the field to the green flag to start  th...
Associated Press

What to know before Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway

Kyle Larson won the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series’ United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday.
17 days ago
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #47 Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew after ...
Associated Press

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins Daytona 500 under caution in double overtime

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Daytona 500 in double overtime and under caution Sunday in the longest running of “The Great American Race.”
1 month ago
Associated Press

Chase Briscoe earns first Cup Series victory at Phoenix Raceway

Chase Briscoe raced to his first Cup Series victory, executing two great restarts over the final 20 laps on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
1 year ago
Nicholas Hodell

Kyle Larson wins NASCAR Cup Series championship at Phoenix Raceway

Kyle Larson took command of the final 28 laps at Phoenix Raceway to win Sunday's race and the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series championship.
1 year ago
Nicholas Hodell

NASCAR’s final 4 worried solely about Sunday’s finale in Phoenix

The NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 are keeping other talking points at bay ahead of Sunday's finale at Phoenix Raceway.
1 year ago
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Team Penske Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang, leads during the NASCAR Cup...
Jake Anderson

NASCAR plans Phoenix Raceway sportsbook with Barstool

Arizona will become the fifth state in the country to feature the online Barstool Sportsbook after Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
2 years ago
Gentlemen, start your engines…and your fists