COTs, SAFER barriers, HANS devices. It’s hard to keep up with all the acronyms created in the name of safety.
And they’re all absolutely worthless when two people lose their minds the way Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch did at Darlington Saturday night.
“Boys, have at it” is one thing. But think for a second about what happened. A car made its way down pit road with nobody in it. It didn’t travel far, but only because of sheer luck, as its angle soon sent it into the wall on pit road.
You know, pit road, where postrace interviews are done. Drivers, crew members, media types and fans with hot passes often assemble there for the postmortem.
Hmm, postmortem. In this case, such a fitting word, because the antics Harvick and Busch pulled could have conceivably put someone in an early grave.
And for that, they both should sit out next week at Dover.
We could spend all day debating whether NASCAR’s recent throw-downs are good for the sport long-term. I tend to say no. On Saturday I listened to longtime boxing journalist Tony Paige on New York sports talk station WFAN bemoan how “tired” prefight press conference dust-ups had become while complimenting the behavior of Manny Pacquiao and Sugar Shane Mosley.
Pro basketball nearly died because so many games turned into glorified bar fights, as parodied by Will Ferrell in “Semi-Pro.” If your sport is identified by little more than its unsanctioned violent behavior, eventually it becomes, well, hockey.
I don’t envy NASCAR at times like this. It’s always had the toughest balancing act in pro sports, needing to be both outlaw cool and family friendly at the same time. It’s the only form of entertainment that starts with a preacher extolling Jesus while some dude in the infield puts down his beer bong just long enough to say “Amen.”
NASCAR has a lot of different people to appease, and there’s only one way to do it. Let the drivers police themselves, with one caveat: If their form of vigilante justice puts others in danger, they have to stay home, no questions asked. Busch automatically should sit a week for sending an unattended car who knows where.
Harvick should sit a week, too. If you leave a loaded gun around your house and somebody gets shot as a result, you can go to jail. Harvick leaving his car unsecured to tussle with Busch started the chain of events, which makes him just as guilty.
I was covering the IRL’s VisionAire 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999 when three spectators were killed after crash debris flew into the stands. I went into sports writing specifically so I wouldn’t have to write deadline stories about dead people, which I had to do that night.
If NASCAR doesn’t sit Busch and Harvick, the chances increase that I’ll have to write one again.