NASCAR executive on Martinsville fight: ‘We’ll probably have to take action’
The sanctioning body does not want crew members to escalate a fight
During his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, league vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell hinted that penalties would follow from Sunday’s post-race fight at Martinsville Speedway between Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and their respective crew members.
Specifically, the sanctioning body did not like the actions of a Team Penske crew member who tackled Hamlin from behind in horse collar fashion when the confrontation ignited on pit road.
“We know emotions are going to run high, especially at this time of the season,” O’Donnell said during the “Morning Drive” radio show. “We don’t encourage it, but we know the drivers are going to address each other after the race when they have an incident. Then, unfortunately, instead of breaking up a fight, I think what we saw was an aggressive move by a crew member. … I think in this case, you have a crew member who was maybe trying to break it up, but certainly an aggressive move we viewed on our part and, unfortunately, we’ll probably have to take some action to address that today or tomorrow.”
The two championship contenders had a stern but otherwise peaceful conversation immediately after the First Data 500. The chat centered around contact between the two inside the top five with 42 laps to go. The incident saw Hamlin squeeze Logano into the wall off turn 4, resulting in a spin due to a cut tire.
The conversation was civil until Logano placed a light departing palm thrust on his rival before attempting to part ways. Hamlin aggressively tried to follow, the two drivers exchanging words with crew members interjecting.
It was the tackle on Hamlin from behind that was most concerning.
“I think in this case, you had a crew member who I think honestly didn’t realize the force with which he made that move,” O’Donnell said.
NASCAR officials called that crew member, who has not been identified, to the Cup Series hauler after the race. Team Penske competition director Travis Geisler was directed to attend, as well. Neither of the drivers were called in.
“We have some light drivers and some big crew members,” O’Donnell said. “And unfortunately, that’s what happens when those situations take place. I think (Team Penske) understands what’s coming. It’s not something we want to see or encourage, but we’ll have to address it.”
This incident follows a similar one in the Xfinity Series last weekend at Kansas in which crew members interjected themselves into a Tyler Reddick-Cole Custer altercation. Crew members in that fight took both drivers down to the ground. NASCAR did not take action in that incident.
Following that decision, O’Donnell stressed that he felt comfortable that crew members were trying to deescalate the fight.
“In those situations, the key for us is to make sure that the crew members are not coming in and escalating things,” O’Donnell said. “If anything, we’ve just got to go back and look and make sure that’s not the case from our perspective.
“There’s a lot on the line there for the drivers, and we certainly don’t want to encourage that but understand that it gets heated at times. Our thing is to make sure crew members are not getting in there and piling on a driver, so to speak, versus trying to deescalate the situation.”
This time, the tackle from behind was seen as an offensive move and not a defensive one.