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Joe Gibbs Racing-issued suspensions went too far or not far enough

I’m not a big fan of Joe Gibbs Racing’s suspension of two members of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing pit crew that was announced on Thursday as the result of a confrontation between Lee Cunningham and Chris Taylor of Martin Truex Jr.’s Furniture Row Racing pit crew and Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Adam Stevens during the July 23 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Cunningham and Taylor were suspended for the three races by Joe Gibbs Racing, beginning with Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Stevens was not suspended for his involvement.

Why was JGR able to suspend members of FRR’s pit crew? Because Gibbs supplies the pit crew to Furniture Row, so those pit crew members are actually employed by Joe Gibbs. Basically, JGR suspended a couple employees for poor conduct. But why not all three?

I put off publishing my opinion until I heard both sides of the story, and Stevens finally spoke up on Friday. He didn’t really say much we didn’t already know, though. I buy his version of what happened, but the penalty still doesn’t sit right with me.

Long story short, Stevens was on his way to the garage, several minutes after a wreck between Busch and Truex while the two drivers raced for the lead. Truex took responsibility for said wreck. As Stevens walked toward the garage, he was taunted by a member of the No. 78 team over the wreck. As a result, Stevens approached the No. 78 team in its pit stall. One of the No. 78 team members told him to get out of their pit box, and the other made physical contact with Stevens. Stevens referred to that contact as a shove, but after viewing available video footage, I’m not sure I’d describe said contact so strongly.

Stevens said he considered himself provoked by two Joe Gibbs Racing employees. I get it, but I don’t agree with the suspensions, or the lack of another suspension.

The way I see it, JGR should’ve either issued no suspensions or three suspensions. I get the viewpoint that the two FRR crewmen started the incident by provoking Stevens, but Stevens had the option of ignoring them and continuing his walk to the garage. Sure, that’s probably easier said than done, but it was an option.

Think of it in terms of a fight between two children. Often both children are punished for the fight, not just the one who started it.

I don’t mean to suggest that there was an ulterior motive behind the suspensions, but it sure doesn’t put JGR in a good light. I mean, Truex is the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader by a large margin and is a multi-race winner. Meanwhile, although running well, Busch hasn’t gotten to a Cup Series victory lane since last year’s Brickyard 400. Truex’s two crew members involved in the incident were suspended while the one Busch crew member wasn’t.

No, decisions should be made based on perception, but still, this whole thing looks like a case of sour grapes from the Joe Gibbs Racing camp. Was that the case? I don’t know. I hope not, but I have to say that it looks like it.

It doesn’t sit well with me that a team has the ability to suspend members of a competitor’s team, although I understand completely how JGR has that right in this situation. I guess that’s one of those negative side effects of alliances that include one team supplying a pit crew to another.

Understanding it doesn’t mean I have to like it, though. I strongly believe, if JGR felt the altercation called for suspensions, all involved should’ve been suspended, not just the two on the opposing team. Stevens may not have started it, but his participation was his choice.

I think it’s worth noting that NASCAR didn’t consider the incident worthy of punishment. If so, I’m sure one would’ve been issued by the sanctioning body.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on July 30, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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