If NASCAR doles out penalties for Ambrose vs. Mears, it can’t be one or the other

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Two days later, we’ve all seen the footage of Marcos Ambrose punching Casey Mears after the latter grabbed and shoved him in post-race Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

It seemed like a classic case of “short track tempers” – one part hard racing, then one part difference of opinion, and finally, one part closed fist into skull.

After years of seeing moments like this either through highlight packages or track promotion spots on television, we’re probably a bit numb to it all.

And so, wouldn’t it just be fine to chalk it up to “short track tempers” and be done with it?  Besides, you’d think nobody would be stupid enough to go for revenge at the next track on the schedule, Talladega Superspeedway, where one driver’s attempt at payback can become a million-dollar pile of mangled race cars.

But NASCAR still needs to respond to what occurred Saturday in Richmond between Ambrose and Mears. And when it does, they both need to be penalized.

Because while Ambrose managed to tag Mears in the face (the latter has since admitted that he got a ‘pretty good’ shot from the Australian), Mears did escalate the matter when he put his hands on Ambrose’s firesuit and moved him.

When somebody does that to you, you are compelled to defend yourself, right then and there. And that’s what Ambrose did.

All the same, the incident took away from where the focus needs to be, and that’s the racing.

As for what NASCAR can do to Ambrose and Mears, that’s for them to decide and they can do quite a bit. In Sporting News writer Bob Pockrass’ take on the situation, he notes that the NASCAR rulebook doesn’t have specific guidelines for “behavioral infractions” and that such matters are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Pockrass suggests a noticeable fine and probation for Ambrose, but not a suspension, which seems reasonable considering that these were two competitors settling their differences (albeit somewhat violently) just after they’d raced for 400 laps.

I’d suggest the same punishment for Mears and be done with them.

However, crewmen that injected themselves into Ambrose and Mears’ fight (watch the footage and you’ll notice one crewman getting a punch in on Ambrose) may need to be suspended, at least for one race. They needed to break the two drivers up, not get into their battle themselves.

It also bears noting that Mears has suggested the incident is not “something you just forget.” If I’m a NASCAR official, I’m taking that as another reason to penalize him and Ambrose, and to try and deter other drivers from repeating their episode in the future.

Where do you think NASCAR should come down on this matter? Use the comments to sound off, but we ask that you keep it clean.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.