OK, let’s say you’re a police officer, and your pistol goes off in the precinct because you failed to put the gun on safety. Nobody got hurt, but your actions showed gross neglect for those around you.
Your boss gives you the benefit of the doubt and tells you to go on vacation to clear your head. You go deer hunting with your friends, and while out in the woods the same thing happens, nearly sending a friend to the morgue.
Should the brass just ignore repeated moments of irresponsibility because you weren’t at work at the time?
No. And neither should NASCAR when it comes to Kyle Busch, who got caught going 128 MPH on a 45 MPH speed limit road Tuesday, an action even more potentially lethal than sending Kevin Harvick’s Chevy who knows where at Darlington.
At times like this I really blame Jeremy Mayfield, believe it or not. This is one of those moments where NASCAR might lay the hammer down on Busch. But because his probation following Darlington didn’t specifically mention off-track shenanigans in a car and Mayfield landed a couple of punches against NASCAR in court, the governing body might not be quite as comfortable taking a stand — even though its actions detrimental to NASCAR notation in the rulebook gives it a lot of latitude.
The truth is that Busch has shown so much disregard for human life in the last month that he should almost be welcoming a suspension right now, knowing how much worse his boneheaded behavior could have ended up.
As much as devout car owner Joe Gibbs preaches the virtuous way, he continues to employ and not discipline NASCAR’s least-disciplined drivers. I’ll go as far as to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that in today’s tenuous sponsorship market, it’s pretty difficult to put a driver on the sidelines if you’re not forced to.
That leaves NASCAR to play the heavy, and many say it’s not their role because the drivers are independent contractors, not employees.
That argument might win a judgment in court, but it won’t bring back Jon and James Herbert. The sons of Top Fuel drag racer Doug Herbert were killed in 2008 after Jon, 17, made an ill-advised driving decision on Lake Norman in North Carolina.
Jon Herbert and Kyle Busch made very similar decisions. Only difference is, Jon was a teenager and Busch is supposed to be an adult.
It’s really not a question at this point if Busch’s immaturity will kill someone. It’s when. If NASCAR doesn’t feel a moral obligation to do something about this, it should at least protect its own interest.
NASCAR hasn’t been on the brink of disaster to this degree since Bobby Allison’s car almost went into the grandstand at Talladega in 1987. Had the circumstances not changed (restrictor plates), at some point dozens of fans would’ve been killed and NASCAR would have gone from emerging mainstream sport to outcast.
For both moral and business reasons Busch should’ve been suspended, but the fact that he was qualifying Thursday night confirmed NASCAR’s stance of personal responsibility away from the track.
And for NASCAR that’s much more of a gamble than Busch going 128.