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.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

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