So NASCAR relaxed at the start of the next season, using a “Boys, Have At It” policy that allowed the drivers to police themselves.
The boys tested NASCAR just four races in when Carl Edwards waited 153 laps for his crew to fix his car for the sole purpose of getting back on the track at Atlanta to wreck Brad Keselowski. Edwards’ high-speed contact sent Keselowski’s car airborne, and there were immediate calls for Edwards to be suspended.
But doing so would have been the immediate end of the policy, and Edwards instead got off with a mere three races of probation. The boys have been allowed to have at it ever since.
There has been bumping and banging, and Tony Stewart’s threats to wreck each and every driver who blocks him from now until the end of time. There’s an occasional flare-up, an intentional act or two, and NASCAR intervenes when needed.
Then came last November at Texas, when Busch blatantly put Hornaday, a championship contender, into the wall under caution.
Unlike Edwards, he absolutely deserved to be suspended.
Where NASCAR erred was in insisting that Busch had been suspended solely for the Hornaday incident when he had been out of control most of last season and arrogantly behaving as if his talent made him untouchable. In fact, Hornaday had called for Busch to be suspended for that weekend’s Cup race, an option Busch seemed to dismiss in an interview after the accident.
By suspending him the next morning, NASCAR sent a message it was in charge and Busch better start behaving.
Gordon’s decision to wreck Bowyer — he says Bowyer deserved it for a season’s worth of misdeeds — is more like the Edwards incident. Or perhaps more like another incident last season, when Brian Vickers promised retaliation against Matt Kenseth and then rode Kenseth’s back bumper until Kenseth turned into the wall. Vickers got no penalty.