UPDATED — Give your opinion: What should NASCAR’s response be to Sunday’s Texas takedown?


This just in: Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are all thinking about driving in NASCAR.

They certainly wouldn’t be short of rivals, that’s for sure.

Ok, that may not exactly be true, but given how things have unfolded over the last few weeks as the Chase for the Sprint Cup has hit a fever pitch, what we’re seeing is an end result that has evolved into nothing short of a heavyweight fight – both literally and figuratively.

But in the whole big scheme of things, is that good or bad?

About 100,000 fans went to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday to see a Sprint Cup race. But instead of playing up Jimmie Johnson’s win, what many of those same fans will likely be talking about for the next several days is not the race, but the post-race fight between two of the sport’s own heavyweights, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

Both drivers emerged from a post-race brawl – which included more than a dozen undercard bouts among crew members at the same time – with matching fat lips.

Keselowski appeared to get the worst of the battle, with blood streaming not only out of his mouth but also getting waylaid on his forehead, as well.

And we had to laugh that while Gordon and Keselowski were talking smack to each other before the fists began flying, Kevin Harvick got into the mix and pushed Keselowski from behind.

Ding-ding-ding, the battle began. Harvick, meanwhile, smartly backed out of the ensuing mess and left his pretty face unscathed – which is more than Keselowski and Gordon can say.

Sure, the battle between those two drivers was great theater and drama, and will definitely have fans talking for quite some time, but is this REALLY how NASCAR wants its marquee event to play out?

Yes, it will draw attention from around the globe, but at what cost? Is it a cost that NASCAR wants to pay?

If we saw constant fistfights and more on and off the field during the NFL playoffs, would commissioner Roger Goodell sit idly by and let more of the same occur?

For with every viewer that tunes into Sunday’s race at Phoenix or the season finale at Homestead to watch for more fisticuffs, will NASCAR emerge looking like a genius, or will it ultimately become the laughingstock of pro sports?

Not only is the championship a high-stakes fight, the post-race battles we’ve seen in recent weeks (both physical and verbal) between Keselowski and Matt Kenseth, Kenseth and Harvick and now Keselowski and Gordon have done exactly what NASCAR had hoped for, albeit maybe not necessarily the way the sanctioning body intended.

Yes, fans have gotten more engaged and excited, while non-NASCAR fans are also taking the bait and being drawn in, all with the goal of driving up TV ratings and at-track attendance for the two remaining races.

We received proof of that earlier Sunday when Phoenix International Raceway officials announced that next Sunday’s next-to-last Chase race is sold out. Seats are still available on the hill that overlooks PIR, but if you want the sheer comfort of a seat inside the track, you’re out of luck.

And from what we hear, tickets for the remaining open seats for the season finale at Homestead in two weeks were already selling briskly.

But with what happened at Texas, watch those same Homestead ticket sales jump dramatically between now and the green flag two weeks from now.

Anybody who is anyone will want to be at Homestead, especially if what we’ve seen the last few weeks – including Sunday – continues at Phoenix and potentially at Homestead.

Frankly, I’m not going to be surprised to see that race a total sellout, as well. Rather, I’ll be surprised if it is not a completely sellout.

But still we go back to what will all this fighting do for NASCAR’s reputation.

If this were the NFL or NBA or Major League Baseball, a fight like what we saw at Texas would likely result be dealt in almost identical fashion by governing officials in any of those leagues: resulting in significant fines and penalties – the playoffs or its main actors in it be damned.

Will Brian France or Mike Helton decide that NASCAR’s reputation and integrity are more important than a one- or two-race spike in TV ratings and attendance?

Or will “Boys have at it” ultimately overrule common sense?

When Gordon went after Clint Bowyer both on and off the racetrack in the Chase race at Phoenix two years ago, he wound up being fined $100,000 and 25 points. Will we see something similar in light of the Texas takedown?

You won’t get an argument from me that fans like beating and banging on the racetrack. It’s part of the sport’s legacy over the last 65 years.

But when that beating and banging carries over to pit road after the checkered flag, when does NASCAR decide too much is enough?

No matter what NASCAR officials ultimately decide to do about all the beating and banging that’s going on off the track, in the court of public opinion, will they ultimately be judged by what they do or what they don’t do?

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”