NASCAR’s huge dilemma: What to do with Brad Keselowski?

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CONCORD, N.C. – Smack dab in the middle of perhaps the most important Chase for the Sprint Cup to date, NASCAR finds itself in a situation where it’s damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

With so much riding on the new elimination-style Chase format, should NASCAR penalize Brad Keselowski for his actions at Charlotte, knowing full well that if it does, it will effectively eliminate Keselowski from the Chase?

By intentionally running into Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart, Keselowski made his own bed. And now it’s up to NASCAR to decide if it needs to change the linens as a result.

Whatever decision NASCAR ultimately comes to – to penalize Keselowski or not – will be met with criticism.

If the sanctioning body does nothing, it will likely draw huge criticism from fans. For if Keselowski can get away with what he did, what other drivers will throw all caution to the wind in the remaining five Chase races?

If that were to occur, we would likely see the Chase quickly go from high drama to outright mayhem.

Surely, that’s not what NASCAR wants.

At the same time, many fans will argue that Keselowski definitely needs to be punished, if for nothing else but to send a message that such actions will not be tolerated going forward.


But then there’s the other side of the potential punishment coin.

If NASCAR were to penalize Keselowski the usual standard of 25 points, doing so would all but eliminate him from any chance of reaching the Eliminator Round – unless he pulls a Hail Mary win out of his back pocket at Talladega.

Do the math: Keselowski is ranked 10th of the 12 drivers left in the Chase, 50 points behind series leader and teammate Joey Logano and 19 points behind the guy who is in eighth place and on the elimination bubble, Kasey Kahne.

If NASCAR were to slap Keselowski with a 25-point fine, he would have to win Talladega. If he were to finish with a top-five, let’s say, he’d have to hope the other 38 drivers behind him on the racetrack get caught up in the biggest one of Big Ones at the unpredictable wildcard track.

Impossible? No. Unlikely? Most definitely yes.

But that puts NASCAR in a bind of the opposite extreme: If it penalizes Keselowski, all but ending his Chase advancement chances, fan criticism will likely be equally as loud in support of the 2012 series champ as it would be against him if NASCAR does nothing at all.

Or, the sanctioning body could suspend Keselowski for Talladega as punishment, but that too would result in his elimination from advancing to the next round of the Chase.

This is without question, a classic Catch 22 that NASCAR finds itself in.

Or, maybe we should just call it a Catch 2 because that’s Keselowski’s car number.

NASCAR wants fans to tune in to the rest of the Chase, if not go out to the five remaining races on the schedule in person.

It also wants to see drama and human emotion that fans eat up like ice cream and apple pie.

But what can be done, especially when there are more than enough examples of past indiscretions and precedent that brought about NASCAR’s wrath:

  • Jeff Gordon was penalized 25 points and fined $100,000 for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer at Phoenix in the second-to-last race of the 2012 Chase. Gordon’s actions ultimately cost Bowyer one last shot at the championship the following week in the season finale at Homestead.
  • Even though it wasn’t in the Chase, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were penalized 25 points for their Darlington demolition derby on pit road in 2011, much like what Keselowski did Saturday night in Charlotte.
  • The younger Busch brother was also suspended for one race in the 2011 Chase when he intentionally drove Ron Hornaday Jr.’s truck into the wall, effectively ending Hornaday’s Camping World Truck Series championship hopes as a result.

There’s no question that NASCAR has to do something with Keselowski, but what?

Sure, it could penalize him with the catch all infraction, Section 12-4-A of the NASCAR Rule Book, citing “Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing.”

But maybe this will also prompt NASCAR to come up with a new rule that might be a bit more appropriate in cases such as this:

“Forcing NASCAR Into a Corner Due to a Driver’s Own Stupidity.”

Yep, Keselowski certainly merits that, for sure.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.