October 3, 2022

Noah Gragson committed an inexcusable infraction on Saturday, July 2, and if left unchecked, it could change the landscape of NASCAR going forward.

On Saturday, I set up my DVR to record the Henry 180 at Road America as I drove to an antique tractor show and would miss watching the NASCAR Xfinity Series race live. Saturday would be the best day for the show, and I had other plans for Sunday and Monday. Sometimes technology has its advantages. But when I got home from the show, I got a text from my friend Bryan:

“Mdr. Stupid by Noah. Stupid by NASCAR for not issuing a warning sooner[.]”

I was stopped at a traffic light and didn’t have time to look at exactly what happened, or to suspect the seriousness of what happened – and the consequences.

On lap 25, Gragson’s car rushed to the right on the straight between turns 3 and 5 and collided with Sage Karam, driving the #45 Alpha Prime Racing car. Dust blew from the rear and right side of car #45 as it slid through the grass. Some pilots like Brandon Jones and Josh Berry were able to avoid disasters. Others weren’t so lucky.

Landon Cassill, Myatt Snider, Tyler Reddick, Brett Moffitt and Brandon Brown were collected from the dust bowl of chaos. The interval between the initial contact between Gragson and Karam and when NBC showed the warning on television was 13 seconds.

The whole situation started when Karam and Gragson hit in Turn 1. Karam appeared to take the middle lane, giving Gragson the inside around the corner.

But Gragson rounded the corner as tight as Karam probably suspected, and their car doors banged. Their contact led Ty Gibbs to pass Karam before turn 2 and Gragson before turn 3.

Karam followed Gibbs inside Gragson. As the pair exited the side-to-side corner, Gragson’s car spun off the track, but that was not unusual for the race. Many cars did this on their own without pressure.

Then it happened. Gragson’s car turned right and into the left side of Karam just before the Sargento Bridge.

It’s rather unfortunate that NBC didn’t have more cameras — even unmanned fixed cameras — that might have helped paint a better picture, not of what happened, but of the vicious impacts the drivers suffered. and exactly what they could and could not see.

Outside the medical center, Snider said Front stretch that what he heard and saw was “a race in an unprofessional manner”.

Brown, who suffered one of the hardest beatings of the crash, said: “There’s no reason to turn someone away immediately, especially in an area where there are no spotters. “

Karam expressed on the radio after the incident and at the medical center that Gragson simply “transformed into me”.

When you watch the replays, it’s hard to tell that Gragson didn’t deliberately turn his steering wheel directly into Karam’s car.

“He [Karam] forgot the three times he threw it in the corner and knocked us off the race track,” Gragson told NBC. “Eventually, you get fed up and you get fed up. I hate [that] people’s stuff got torn, but I mean, three is kinda ridiculous just today and including the past. I take responsibility. I hate it for his guys, but we’re fighting to race for a championship here. Just really done getting crushed.

Gragson went so far as to say he intentionally destroyed a contestant without crossing them, and basically admitted that he destroyed Karam on purpose.

NASCAR absolutely could have put the caution on sooner. Common sense tells you that in a high-speed section of a track with Road America-like conditions, once a car pulls over, caution should be in order. There is a bridge right there, the track narrows and there was a swarm of cars behind the initial contact point.

Does a warning prevent every car from suffering damage? No, but it signals that there is a situation on the trail that warrants caution – that’s literally why we call it a caution. The impacts could have been less severe and perhaps even cheaper for the teams to repair. In the grand scheme of the race, 13 seconds isn’t long, but a lot of the track was covered in that amount of time.

After the race, Karam’s car owner, Tommy Joe Martins, tweeted that it was “absolutely on purpose” and tagged Gragson’s car owners, Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Dale Earnhardt Jr., saying “I’m sure you’re even embarrassed to be associated with that.”

Earnhardt Miller, vice president of JR Motorsports, responded to Martins’ tweet and defended Gragson, saying she was not embarrassed by her driver’s actions.

Even though Karam relied on Gragson multiple times in Saturday’s lone race, there’s a difference between intentionally destroying another competitor and simply pushing him out of your way. Gragson is not new to using his bumper to displace a competitor or use one. He did it to Gibbs at Portland International Raceway a month ago when he passed for the lead.

Should NASCAR intervene in this particular situation? Nine times out of 10 I will say no. But this time it’s different.

Gragson’s competitors were upset and called his driving dangerous and unprofessional. Based on existing video evidence for the public, it is difficult to assert that Gragson did not intentionally destroy Karam. On top of that, Gragson finished the race with no steering issues, which may have been his only defense in the situation.

In 2011, NASCAR suspended Kyle Busch for the remainder of the weekend from Texas Motor Speedway when he wrecked Ron Hornaday on bail during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. NASCAR suspended Matt Kenseth for two races for deliberately destroying and targeting Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway in 2015. And in 2019, Johnny Sauter was suspended for one race for intentionally destroying Austin Hill during a truck race at Iowa Speedway. .

The precedent is set and NASCAR must act. Ever popular with fans, Gragson wears his emotions on his sleeves and is unabashed himself. He runs hard and Gragson incorporates the ladies or wrecking mentality into his racing craft at every turn when he’s at his best.

Gragson’s popularity, the team he drives for and his sponsors are all important, but none of them should deter NASCAR from suspending him for his on-track actions. Because if NASCAR doesn’t suspend Gragson, they’re setting a new precedent that could set an open season for retaliation.

Another aspect that NASCAR needs to consider is the fact that Karam is not an established NASCAR driver. He has spent most of his career in the NTT IndyCar series. What opinions will non-NASCAR drivers interested in racing, whether they know the culture well or not, have?

Scrubs and bumps are stock car racing. It is inexcusable to intentionally destroy a driver because he has penetrated you or is using what you consider to be inferior equipment, but on any given day he is faster than you.

NASCAR shouldn’t be worried that Gragson’s suspension will jeopardize its championship hopes. When they suspended Sauter in 2019, they gave him a waiver, and the same could be done for Gragson whether you agree with that precedent or not. Whether it’s a one- or two-race suspension, Gragson still wouldn’t be able to earn any playoff points or championship points.

The decision to intentionally destroy Karam was the most indefensible thing Gragson has done at the wheel, and the sanctioning body needs to address it. The Earnhardt siblings will likely discuss the incident with him, but I highly doubt they’ll sit him down for a run.

As the sanctioning body, NASCAR must step in and reiterate to all NASCAR garages that there is zero tolerance for intentionally destroying another driver at any track and under any conditions.


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