The precedent exists, NASCAR has to suspend Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson committed an unforgivable offense on Saturday (July 2), and if left unchecked, it could alter the landscape of NASCAR well into the future.

On Saturday, I set my DVR to record the Henry 180 at Road America, while traveling to a vintage tractor show and would miss seeing the NASCAR Xfinity Series race live. Saturday would be the best day for the show, and he had other plans for Sunday and Monday. Sometimes technology has its advantages. But on the way home from the show, I got a text from my friend Bryan:

“Hahaha. Stupid of Noah. Stupid of NASCAR for not issuing a caution sooner.”[.]”

I stopped at a traffic light and did not have time to look up exactly what happened, nor did I suspect the seriousness of what happened, and the consequences.

On lap 25, Gragson’s car spun to the right on the straight between Turns 3 and 5 and collided with Sage Karam, driving the No. 45 Alpha Prime Racing car. Dust bellowed from the rear and right side of the No. 45 car as it slid across the grass. Some drivers like Brandon Jones and Josh Berry were able to avoid disaster. Others were not so lucky.

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

The whole situation started when Karam and Gragson collided at turn 1. Karam appeared to take the middle lane, giving Gragson the inside around the corner.

But Gragson turned the corner as sharply as Karam probably suspected, and his car doors slammed. His contact led to Ty Gibbs passing Karam before Turn 2 and Gragson before Turn 3.

Karam followed Gibbs into Gragson. As the two came out of the corner side by side, Gragson’s car went off the track, but that was not out of the ordinary in the race. Several cars were doing that on their own with no pressure.

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

It’s quite unfortunate that NBC didn’t have more cameras, even unmanned stationary cameras, that could have helped paint a better picture, not of what happened, but of the vicious impacts drivers experienced and exactly what they could and couldn’t see. .

Outside the medical center, Snider said front straight that what he heard and saw was “running in an unprofessional manner.”

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

Karam said on the radio after the incident and at the medical center that Gragson just “became me.”

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

“The [Karam] he forgot the three times he threw it into the corner and hit us and ran us off the race track,” Gragson told NBC. “Eventually, you get sick and tired of it. hatred [that] people’s stuff broke, but I mean, three is kind of ridiculous just today and including the past. I take responsibility. I hate him for his guys, but we’re fighting to contend for a championship here. Really above being run over.”

Gragson walked the line of saying that he intentionally destroyed a competitor without crossing it, and essentially admitted that he destroyed Karam on purpose.

NASCAR absolutely could have put out the yellow flag sooner. Common sense tells you that on a high-speed section of track with Road America-like conditions, once a car swerves, caution must fly. Right there is a bridge, the track narrows and there was a swarm of cars behind the initial contact point.

Does a precaution prevent all cars from taking damage? No, but it does indicate that there is a situation on the track that warrants caution; that’s why we literally call it caution. The impacts could have been less severe and perhaps even less expensive for teams to repair. In the grand scheme of the race, 13 seconds isn’t a long time, 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 embarrassed to even be associated with it.” ”

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 if Karam leaned on Gragson several times in Saturday’s race alone, there’s a difference between intentionally ripping apart a fellow competitor and simply getting them out of your way. Gragson isn’t new to using his defense to move a competitor or use one. He did it to Gibbs at Portland International Raceway a month ago when he made a pass for the lead.

Does NASCAR need to intervene in this particular situation? Nine times out of 10, I’m going to say no. But this time it is different.

Gragson’s competitors were upset, calling his driving dangerous and unprofessional. From the video evidence out there for the public, it’s hard to argue that Gragson didn’t intentionally rip Karam apart. 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 at Texas Motor Speedway when he wrecked Ron Hornaday under caution during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. NASCAR suspended Matt Kenseth for two races for intentionally trashing and targeting Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway in 2015. And in 2019, Johnny Sauter was suspended for one race for intentionally trashing Austin Hill in a Truck race at Iowa Speedway.

The precedent is set and NASCAR needs to take action. Always popular with fans, Gragson wears his emotions on his sleeve and is unapologetic about himself. He runs hard, and Gragson incorporates the checkers-or-wreck mentality into his racing craft every lap when he’s at his best.

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

Another aspect that NASCAR must take into account is the fact that Karam is not an established NASCAR driver. He has spent most of his career in the NTT IndyCar Series. What views will drivers outside of NASCAR develop who are interested in racing in it, whether they are well-versed in the culture or not?

Rub and bump is stock car racing. Intentionally trashing a driver because he has messed with you, or is on what you consider to be an inferior team, but on a given day he is faster than you is inexcusable.

NASCAR need not fear that Gragson’s suspension will jeopardize its championship hopes. When Sauter was suspended in 2019, he was given a waiver, and the same could be done with Gragson, whether he agrees with that precedent or not. Whether it’s a one-race or two-race suspension, Gragson still couldn’t earn playoff points or championship points.

The decision to intentionally destroy Karam was the most indefensible thing Gragson has ever done behind the wheel, and the sanctioning body needs to address it. The Earnhardt brothers will probably discuss the incident with him, but I highly doubt they’ll keep him out of a race.

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

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