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.