Phoenix Sunday, and frontier justice (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
That's about the only way to describe NASCAR officials in their handling of the Jeff Gordon flap.
It is another slap in the face for this sport's fans.
And it comes as NASCAR racing continues a downward spiral, which the rest of the country -- if it's even watching any more -- can easily see.
Maybe nobody in Daytona reads The Wall Street Journal....but this is its latest story on the state of this sport:HERE
Maybe it's just a long, long season and everyone is tired.
But if NASCAR execs don't see that this latest decision may be seen by some fans as a clear example of a double standard of justice, then they are indeed clueless.
One rulebook and one judgment for Jeff Gordon; another rulebook and another judgment for Kyle Busch.
It is appears just that plain and simple.
When NASCAR announced it was letting Gordon off with just a slap on the wrist for his dangerous actions in the final miles of Sunday's Phoenix 500K, it was first surprising.
After all Kyle Busch had been suspended from last fall's Texas 500 for a similar, and much less dangerous, incident in a Friday night Truck race.
Either NASCAR officials were wrong in how they handled the Busch situation at Texas, or they were wrong in how they handled the Gordon situation at Phoenix.
Can't have it both ways.
And fans can see through it.
Busch crashed Ron Hornaday, then a Truck title challenger with the championship on the line.
And Gordon crashed Clint Bowyer, this fall a Sprint Cup title challenger with the championship on the line.
Busch made his move under caution, and it only involved Hornaday.
Gordon made his move under green, and it took out others. And it set in motion a very dangerous green-white-checked shootout that wound with a crash-filled frontstretch, cars on fire, cars in the air landing on other cars.
NASCAR obviously blew the call on not throwing a yellow for Danica Patrick's oil-down. And it's still not clear why officials froze at the switch.
That was an inglorious moment for the sport in itself.
As if that all weren't enough, NASCAR, in its post-race analysis, decided to fine Brad Keselowski $25,000.
Ostensibly the NASCAR penalty on Keselowski was for carrying a cellphone in his race car. NASCAR and the rest of the racing world of course has known, even celebrated, that ever since February at Daytona. NASCAR okayed Keselowski and cell phone at that time.
Now however it's a $25,000 fine.
Or were NASCAR executives actually penalizing Keselowski instead for his post-Phoenix tirade about bad driving by some of his fellow drivers, presumably like Gordon himself.
NASCAR remember fined Keselowski $50,000 last fall for some rather innocuous comments about the new engine fuel injection system.
Perhaps that's being too kind. Let's go back and reread The Wall Street Journal.
NASCAR's official announcement:
"Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 car, was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) – altercation with another competitor on the race track during the race – and has been fined $100,000, docked 25 championship driver points and put on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Rick Hendrick, owner of the No. 24 car, has also been penalized with the loss of 25 championship owner points. Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 car, also was found to be in violation of Section 9-4A (at all events, crew chief assumes responsibility of his driver, car owner and team members) and has been placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31.
"Brian Pattie, crew chief of the No. 15 car, violated Sections 12-1 and 9-4A and has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31.
"Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 car, has been fined $25,000 and placed on probation until Dec. 31 for violating Sections 12-1 and 20-6.7A (cars and drivers will not be permitted to carry onboard computers, automated electronic recording devices, electronically actuated devices, power distribution modules, power conditioners, micro-processors, recording devices, electronic digital memory chips, traction control devices, digital readout gauges and the like, even if inoperable or incomplete) – driver had a cell phone in his possession onboard the race car."