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If safety on pit road is such a big issue, then shouldn't NASCAR be more aggressive in protecting pit crewmen?

  Jeff Gordon weighs in on safety: Yes, says Gordon, a driver hitting a pit road crewman should be penalized. After all, NASCAR penalizes drivers for hitting cones on pit road, and aren't crewmen more important than traffic cones?(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   DOVER, Del.
   Here's the question:
   Should NASCAR penalize drivers who hit crewmen on pit road?
   After all, pit road safety should be a big issue in this sport.
   Jeff Gordon, who had a pit road bobble himself at Darlington last weekend, dragging his gas man down pit road on a pit stop, says yes.

   "That's safety issues, so I think absolutely," Gordon says. "There has got to be a penalty, or a reaction to an action. 
    "If something happens, sometimes maybe NASCAR doesn't penalize you, but…you usually pay a penalty anyway, whether it's time on the track. 
    "When there's a safety issue involved, I feel there are times when they have to step in."
   The issue is appropriate here in light of the $50,000 in fines NASCAR levied on Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch for their pit road run-in at Darlington, where Busch pushed Harvick's car out of the way, in a move that could have led to injuries. NASCAR also put the two on four weeks probation.
    However in that same race Dale Earnhardt Jr. was hit with a one-lap penalty for hitting the 'commitment' cone on pit road, while Gordon and Paul Menard both were involved in pit road incidents with their own pit crew but were not penalized.
     "I felt bad," Gordon said of his situation. "I think my guy got a little hurt. 
   "But I was proud of him because he didn't let go; he was going to get every drop of that gas in the tank, and he didn’t let go.  And he didn't let any equipment go out of the box, which is the most impressive part.
    "But he paid a big penalty for that because he was banged up for a couple days."
   Menard hit a member of his crew who was cleaning off the front grill.
    Neither crewman was seriously injured.
   Gordon pointed out that NASCAR penalizes a driver for hitting a tire and knocking it out of the pit road. But he said "If you run over a guy, I've never heard of a penalty for that….
    "But if they looked at the tape and it was unnecessary, then I could see them maybe reacting to something like that."

    Greg Biffle's quip-tical take on the Harvick-Busch flap:
   "I want to be a part of it…because I want to sell the hats and tee-shirts.
   "But I don't want to be a part of it, though because I don't want to lose the points, or be backwards in the fence or have the radiator busted out of the car and finish 35th.
    "It is fun for the sport, though. And, trust me, I have been there enough, and the season is not over yet."


    Kurt Busch: Yes, he does have a bit of history with Kevin Harvick. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   So is Kyle Busch right when he says that Kevin Harvick's 'attitude' toward him might stem from a run-in earlier in his career with older brother Kurt Busch?
   Well, let's ask Kurt….
   Oops. Better stand back.
    Busch laughed at the question, but then you have to know the history here.
    "Okay, right….Let's congratulate Regan Smith on his win last week…I don't think he's gotten any coverage what-so-ever," Busch said.
    And Harvick?
    "For that issue, I'd say who hasn't Harvick had an issue with?
   "Everybody has had run-ins.  I've had run-ins. Biffle has had run-ins.  You name it and everybody has had run-ins with other guys. 
     "The way rivalries are started is from having heated issues out on the race track time and time again.  We've seen that with guys like Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip, we've seen that with the Allisons and Cale Yarborough. 
    "It's nothing different. What we're rolling through now is what we went through then."
   And Sunday's Dover 400 – the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks – could just continue the run of frayed tempers.
  "Things happen here so quickly, and you're really fighting the car all race long," Kurt Busch says.  "Just like me and Tony Stewart a few years back, it takes just that one little trip of the trigger…
    "And it seems like drivers' fuses are shorter here, just because the track demands that much more from the driver."

   Yes, Kurt Busch did have a few nasty run-ins with Harvick back when.
   Maybe it was somewhere back in early 2006 that the fuming really began. Harvick and Kurt Busch had a run-in at Atlanta, with Busch very upset, and publicly screaming on the radio.
   Harvick naturally didn't like that, and the following week at Bristol Harvick had used the pre-race dais to make some vicious comments about Kurt, calling Busch 'a rubberhead,' and saying "I think I'd have probably whipped Kurt Busch before now."
    Harvick quickly realized "I probably shouldn't have said that.
    "But I'd still like to whip his ass.
    "Before the year's over, he'll make a fool out of Roger Penske. I shouldn't have said that either. I should stop; my wife's looking at me like 'You should really stop.'"
     Naturally the finish was Busch versus Harvick, Busch winning.
    And after Busch's victory Harvick added a parting shot "Hated to see  Kurt Busch win. What a whiner."
   To which Busch retorted "He likes to talk a lot. We like to race."
   Harvick, comparing Kurt Busch's hard racing to Tony Stewart's hard racing: "The thing about Tony is Tony's a racer. He gets in there and does what he has to do…and root and gouge a little bit. When it's all said done, he gets out of the car and settle whatever differences he has.
    "The great thing about our sport is people either love you or hate you. And usually when there's as many that hate you as love you, you're doing something right on the track.
     "I think most people don't like Tony because he's a competitor. Most people don't like Kurt Busch because he's a dork."


    And nope they weren't on the Dover dais together.....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR) 

Reexamination Of Post-1988 Pit Rules Overdue

NASCAR needs to overhaul the entire way they do things with regard to pit road rules. The endless incidence of crew injuries began in 1989 when NASCAR began closing pit road when the caution comes out - they did this because Darrell Waltrip got all pouty when at the Atlanta 500 the pace car picked him up as the leader but he wasn't, and so Rusty Wallace put him a lap down.

NASCAR began closing pit road and when it did car contact with crewman and each other on pit road began spiking upward - the most visible incidents were at Talladega in 1989 (Waltrip ran into Jimmy Spencer and launched him almost like Bowyer at Dover) and 1990 (the near-fatal Stanley Smith crash into Tracy Leslie). Then after the disaster at Atlanta in 1990 NASCAR began banning tire changes, trying to get away from mass-pitting under yellow and thinking teams would willingly pit under green for tires; it failed spectacularly. They finally hit on pit speed limits at North Wilkesboro in April 1991 but it's done nothing to protect pit crewmen, with at least one major pit crash a year in the sport; NASCAR required crewmen to wear helmets - again passing up the chance to reexamine whether the pit rules they had in place already should stay.

The rules they've added have the common theme of taking away some measure of control of the racing from the racers and giving it to the officiating tower. NASCAR needs to get over this obsession - when they DIDN'T close pit road there was never a particular safety issue with pitstops; it wasn't even a discussion topic untl 1990.

Go back to the pit rules they had before 1989 - let cars dive into the pits when the yellow comes out on THEIR timetable - let them pit before they take the yellow or a lap or two after, and at the speed THEY want to run. The one rule they should have is a car will be parked if it strikes crewmen.

good points here

good lick on the closing of pit road. remember issues at pocono too, and wilkesboro...they finally repositioned the caution car. you're right; why not let pit road be open and let the luck of the draw determine things. of course nascar controls the timing of the throw of the yellow....
and i like strict penalties on drivers hitting crewmen. it's absurd to penalize a driver for hitting a pit road cone but not a pit road crewman.

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