NASCAR drivers have 'completely lost respect in the garage'
Mar. 19—HAMPTON — There's pretty much always been talk and debate in NASCAR about what constitutes hard, clean racing as opposed to dirty racing and drivers intentionally taking each other out.
The latest major incident happened last week at Phoenix Raceway when Denny Hamlin intentionally hit Ross Chastain. On his podcast Monday after the race, Hamlin admitted he intentionally hit Chastain, a driver he had several run-ins with last year.
NASCAR then fined Hamlin $30,000 and took away 25 points.
Kyle Busch said Saturday that an overall lack of respect among drivers is causing situations to escalate.
"We have completely lost respect in the garage area between drivers at all and that's where the problem lies ... is nobody gives two (expletive) about anybody else and it's just a problem where everybody takes advantage of everybody else as much as they can," Busch said. "We're all selfish, granted, but there was an etiquette. Mark (Martin) started it and Tony (Stewart) lived by it and I think Jeff (Gordon) lived by it ... Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace for the most part, Dale Jarrett for sure. It did exist; that's gone."
As far as veteran drivers taking on leadership roles in the garages, it's a lost cause because younger drivers won't listen, Busch said.
"I've tried talking to guys and they don't listen, so I've lost interest in talking to them," he said. "I had a teammate that I talked to, a kid that raced for me for two years in the Truck Series real recently, who I got into it last week with and tried to talk to him about those exact same issues and lo and behold, it happened to me three races into a new year somewhere else so I'm done talking to them."
He also said drivers who intentionally wreck other drivers need to own up to their mistakes and need to pay consequences, whether it's from NASCAR or among the drivers themselves.
"Drivers to be more ethical and take responsibility for their actions and just race and race hard and if you make a mistake, OK fine, I get it, but when you intentionally drive over somebody because they made a move on you or something you didn't like then you get punched in the face afterwards," Busch said.
A possible solution could be that drivers who wreck other drivers be sent to the back of the pack, like what happens at short tracks.
Busch said that is what his son Brexton is learning on the short tracks now.
"He knows he can't run somebody over because he gets sent to the back," Busch said. "I think that's something else ... there's no repercussions for running somebody over so if you want to do that, you get sent to the back. I could get held a lap, something, but if you spin somebody out, and I'm guilty of it, I've spun somebody out for the lead before or something like that on accident racing but if it happens then you get sent to the back ... caution comes out you get sent to the back. There's no repercussions for that right now so that's the old short track and how these kids learn when they're growing up. Maybe we need to implement that here (in NASCAR)."
Brad Keselowski touched on the subject on Saturday as well as he discussed the feud he had with Carl Edwards in 2010.
"NASCAR came in and had sit-downs and all those things and those were helpful, but I think as a whole it kind of worked its way out over time ... I think more so because the power dynamics shifted and my team was running well every week and at that time Carl's team started to perform less well," he said. "We weren't running around each other ... The line is when your issues start to affecting others ... that's a pretty clear line to me ... I generally think that's a line NASCAR has held over the years. I don't know if that's the line now or not."
One of the worst incidents last year that affected other drivers was the July Xfinity race at Road America when Noah Gragson intentionally wrecked Sage Karan, causing a 13-car wreck. Gragson was fined $35,000 and docked 30 points after the incident.