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Opinion: Driver fights bring buzz to NASCAR but also judgment calls from crew members, officials – USA TODAY

Opinion: Driver fights bring buzz to NASCAR but also judgment calls from crew members, officials – USA TODAY
01 Nov
4:23

After Joey Logano’s tire specialist slammed Denny Hamlin to the ground amid a scrap following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, Hamlin popping up uninjured appears as one of the biggest moments in the playoffs.

If Hamlin had suffered an injury when he hit the Martinsville Speedway pavement, a 2019 title favorite would have seen one of his best shots for a championship come to an end.

While Hamlin didn’t suffer an injury, the debate remains on how NASCAR can balance driver-to-driver fights – which combat the perception the drivers are not as tough as those back in the rough-and-tumble days of the sport , with how much crews should get involved in a fracas.

After the Hamlin-Logano scuffle, NASCAR had a decision to make. Just a week earlier, a Cole Custer crew member pulled Tyler Reddick to the ground during their shoving match following the Xfinity Series race at Kansas. NASCAR issued no penalties.

Determining the move Sunday on Hamlin to be more aggressive and forceful, NASCAR suspended Logano tire technician Dave Nichols Jr. for one race. However, it didn’t fine Nichols, even though NASCAR’s rules give it the leeway to fine him up to $100,000.

Crew members seperate Joey Logano, far left, and Denny Hamlin, botom right, during an altercation on pit lane following the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Losing a veteran tire specialist for a race won’t help Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske crew, but a one-race suspension doesn’t rank as a huge penalty. And NASCAR seemed almost apologetic, with chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell telling SiriusXM he didn’t feel Nichols meant to slam Hamlin down hard but more just wanted to prevent Hamlin from throwing punches at Logano.

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