A week after several crew members jumped into the Kansas scuffle between Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick, another scuffle involving crew members has taken center stage again. As a result, NASCAR has suspended a Team Penske crew member for collaring Denny Hamlin and throwing him to the ground following his scuffle with Penske driver Joey Logano.
Following Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville, Logano and Hamlin first exchanged words, then shoves before crews stepped in to pull the drivers apart. But while other crew members appeared to be working to pull the drivers apart, Dave Nichols Jr., a tire technician for the No. 22 team, appeared to collar Hamlin and pull him to the ground before Hamlin’s crew converged on Nichols.
That move is what led to NASCAR suspending Nichols for the next race, as he was found in violation of Section 12.8.1.C, which addresses member-to-member confrontations with physical violence.
An argument can be made that the crews are doing nothing more than protecting their driver’s honor or respect. In some sense, that may be honorable. But unless the crews are working to break up a quarrel between drivers, their actions may only go to further escalate a situation into something it didn’t need to turn into.
Last week I brought up how some of those in the NASCAR community were talking about how the sport needs to implement a third-man rule much like the NHL. Let those drivers who were involved settle their dispute, be it with words or fists, and unless a crew member is working to de-escalate the situation they stay out of it or they risk a fine and/or a suspension.
There was no reason for Nichols to play the hero and collar Hamlin. His responsibility at that point was to help de-escalate the situation and make sure his driver didn’t get into too much trouble. His actions were over-the-top and unnecessary and made the No. 22 crew look bad.
The issue is between the drivers, not the crew. The drivers are the ones in control of what happens on the track; they’re the ones that know what truly goes down when it goes down. They are also the ones the fans have come to see and if there’s an issue, the fans want to see them handle the issue one-on-one.
Hopefully, the suspension of Nichols is actually seen as a deterrent to the other members on all the teams to not try anything unnecessary during a scuffle between drivers. Let them hash out their beef and be done with it.
Meanwhile, the crew’s job is to act in the best interests of their driver, team, and organization. Collaring a driver and throwing him to the ground is non-conducive to that. The call to suspend Nichols was a good call on NASCAR’s part, so the only thing left to do is to hope it’s enough of a deterrent lest the sanctioning body moves to harsher reprimands.