NASCAR doesn’t mind if drivers “have at it” on the track, but when it comes to crew members throwing punches on pit road, it drew a stern line on Tuesday.
Four crew members from two Hendrick Motorsports teams were fined and suspended by NASCAR for their involvement in a postrace fight on pit road following Sunday night’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jeremy Fuller, a crew member with driver Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 team, along with Dwayne Doucette and Jason Ingle, crew members with Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 team, were each fined $25,000 and suspended the next six Sprint Cup series points races.
Since only two races remain this season, all three are not eligible to return to the track until the race in Fontana, Calif., on March 22, 2015.
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Dean Mozingo, a crew member with the No. 24 team, was fined $10,000 and suspended three races. He can return following next season’s season-opening Daytona 500.
“While the intensity and emotions are high as we continue through the final rounds of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the actions that we saw from several crew members Sunday following the race at Texas are unacceptable,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR senior vice president of competition and racing development, said in a statement.
“A NASCAR championship is at stake, but we can’t allow behavior that crosses the line to go unchecked, particularly when it puts others in harm’s way.”
In addition to the crew members, Kenny Francis, crew chief of the No. 5 team, and Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 team, were each fined $50,000 and placed on probation through the next six Cup races.
Under the NASCAR rulebook, crew chiefs are responsible for the actions of their crew.
In an statement, HMS said it would not appeal any of the penalties.
“Emotions run high when you’re racing for a championship, and that’s exciting for our fans and everyone involved with the sport,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “But there’s a line the competitors need to be cognizant of, and we understand that.
“Jeff (Gordon) was rightfully fired up Sunday night, and it just reiterated to me how passionate he is and how much he wants to win. The No. 24 team is a group that works together and is loyal to one another. They have our full support as we go into these final two races.”
In the final laps of Sunday’s race, which included a track-record 13 cautions, Gordon and Brad Keselowski made contact exiting Turn 4 which ultimately knocked Gordon out of contention for the win.
Once the race was over, Gordon attempted to confront Keselowski on pit road. The incident seemed ready to defuse when Kevin Harvick shoved Keselowski toward Gordon and the two drivers got swept up into an all-out brawl.
Both Gordon and Keselowski were left bloodied in the aftermath, but neither driver struck the other.
None of the drivers involved received any penalties.
In an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said drivers are given more latitude to handle differences among themselves.
“When punches are thrown, we’re going to deal with that,” he said.