NASCAR Penalty On Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Smacks Of Ugly Hypocrisy By Sanctioning Body 

(The article below is a RaceDayCT column – The views expressed in this column are solely the opinion of the writer)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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It was a NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday at North Wilkesboro Speedway that proved to be a ho-hum sleeper of an event. 

Joey Logano led 199 of 200 laps going nearly unchallenged most of the way at the front of the field. 

But when it was over things got wild. 

On lap two of the event Kyle Busch intentionally wrecked Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in retaliation for a move Stenhouse made that sent Busch grazing the wall. 

After the race Stenhouse was waiting for Busch at Busch’s Richard Childress Racing hauler. After a brief exchange of words, Stenhouse took a swing at Busch, setting off a wild body-flying scrum in the pit area that saw went so far that Busch even landed a punch on Stenhouse’s father. 

On Wednesday NASCAR announced its penalties for the incident. 

Stenhouse was fined $75,000. It was largest fine ever given by NASCAR to a driver for a fight. The previous largest fine levied by NASCAR for a driver fight was $50,000 to Tony Stewart in 2004. There was no penalty for Busch for his actions on the track or after the event.

It’s a massive fine by NASCAR that unfortunately smacks of hypocrisy by the sanctioning body. Following the incident NASCAR themselves flooded their own social media channels with posts highlighting what took place between Stenhouse and Busch. 

In the 12 hours following the fight Sunday at North Wilkesboro, NASCAR’s official account on the X platform posted four videos, one photo and one designed graphic highlighting the fight. 

On NASCAR’s website was a story with the headline: “Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch throw punches post All-Star Race”. Clicking on the story opened a one minute and nine second NASCAR produced video of the melee. 

It’s fair to say NASCAR wasn’t shy in using their digital promotional assets to highlight and showcase the fight as a marketing tool to sell the sport. 

And then when all was said and done they gave a driver the largest fine ever for a fight in the history of the sport? 

Cup Series driver Daniel Suarez was quick to point out the hypocrisy involved in a post on X following Wednesday’s penalty announcement. Suarez said: “If it’s so wrong then why is it all over NASCAR social channels? We should be allowed to show our emotions, I don’t get it.” 

Saurez is not wrong. How does NASCAR say on one hand, the behavior by Stenhouse was so egregious that we are giving you a massive and unprecedented fine for the awful thing you did, and then on the other side say, but we’re also going to showcase to the hilt what you did as a marketing highlight of our sport?

The entire incident goes far in shining a light on how the coverage of major sports has changed so greatly in the age of social media and the blurred lines it has created. 

The rise of social media and the downfall of traditional media covering sports ran hand in hand over the last decade and a half. And the rise of social media created a landscape where major professional sports leagues have essentially become their own media. Is it a bad thing? Absolutely not. With less and less traditional media coverage, it’s a given that most professional sporting entities must use social media channels and their own digital platforms as promoting tools, even if some of that promotion is veiled as traditional type media coverage. But, does it create some murky lines of ethics and objectivity? It certainly does. 

What’s hard to define is where is the line is drawn for rule makers punishing bad behavior in a sport and then those same rule makers using that behavior they deem to be punishable as a way to sell more tickets and cultivate new fans? 

Overall, it’s understandable why all Cup Series competitors would be confused by NASCAR’s penalty reaction on Wednesday. It would seem that mixed messaging could be funneled into two separate major questions for competitors. 

First, in not penalizing Busch for intentionally ending someone else’s day on the second lap of an event, the message sent by NASCAR to other competitors is that if you are angry with someone during an event, the best option to express that anger and avoid facing a penalty is to end their day by wrecking them on the track. If NASCAR is going to remain consistent with how it punishes bad behavior on the track, then the precedent has been set that another driver can choose to end someone’s else day and there will be no punishment for that action. 

The second category of mixed messaging sent was partially raised by Suarez when he asks about showing emotions. 

Most who have followed NASCAR for the last four decade have watched the sport go on a meteoric rise of popularity through’s the 1990’s and then fall on a steady decline of popularity over the last 15 years or so. 

When those around the sport attempt to analyze why the popularity of NASCAR took such a dramatic downward turn, one of the factors most often pointed to is the sport losing so many of the colorful personalities that put emotion at the forefront of racing for so long. 

On March 1, 2000, then Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino famously gave his: “Larry Bird is not walking through that door,” speech. Unfortunately for NASCAR, Tony Stewart isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. And neither is Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Rusty Wallace or Jimmy Spencer or any of the polarizing personalities that once gave NASCAR Cup Series racing such tremendous flavor. 

What happened Sunday at North Wilkesboro got NASCAR a massive amount of attention outside of its own fanbase. Stenhouse and his decision to throw a haymaker at Busch is the reason why someone like Pat McAfee was talking to his massive audience about NASCAR on Monday and that’s not such a bad thing. Had the Stenhouse/Busch fight not have taken place, would McAfee have been talking about Logano leading 199 of 200 laps in the All-Star? Not in a million years. 

But then on Wednesday comes the mixed messaging from NASCAR that will certainly be in the heads of all Cup Series competitors. ‘Everybody says we need to be more emotional and passionate, but do I want to have to pay $75,000 for letting my emotions come through?’ Most will probably say no. 

It’s not to say that NASCAR needs a barroom brawl type throw down after every event, but maybe make it so drivers don’t feel handcuffed to mute their personalities out of fear of what it will cost them. And ultimately, don’t have one hand dipping into a competitor’s pocket for a big fine while the other hand is promoting that fined behavior as a reason why people should be watching. 


  1. NASCAR will use that fight to promote their sport because their product doesn’t exactly draw attention. They create drama every race with the stage breaks and playoff format. If people tune in to the next race after watching the fight highlights, they won’t stick around long when they realize the fights are not normal.

  2. Crazy in NY says

    Yawn…..NASCAR hypocrisy dates back to the 79 Daytona 500 post race donnybrook between Cale and the Allison boys. This isn’t a new thing. When your main product isn’t that appealing..serve up a tasty side dish. In media today it’s a common theme. Shi..stuff sells.

  3. Crazy in NY,
    I think you pretty much missed the point of the column. Is media sensationalism a common theme in 2024? Absolutely. I have no issues with “the media” putting a focus on the fight. It’s entertaining content. The point of the column was that it’s an ugly line to cross for the sanctioning body (which is not a media outlet) to portray an action being so dastardly and awful that it warrants the biggest fine for that action in the history of the sport, then have that same sanctioning body use this action they’ve deem so horrendous as a marketing tool for their product ad nauseam.

  4. Fast Eddie says

    Pretty two-faced move by NASCAR… Fighting is bad, but it’s a great marketing tool.

  5. Michael Morrison says

    So a race driver thinks that someone pushed his car up into the wall ( which never happened) and then this same guy says that the same guy hit his car again ( which never happened). So he is mad and wrecks him within the next lap ( on purpose). So now after the said driver that got wrecked has a conversation after the race with the guy that wrecks him and this driver of course, as usual, takes no responsibility for his actions. The wrecked driver now takes a swing at him. Aftermath: NASCAR now in their wisdom fines the driver that got wrecked, where he did absolutely nothin wrong $75,000. and the guy that wrecked him gets off 100% Scott Free. Busch took an opportunity away from Stenhouse of the possibility of winning $1,000,000.00. NASCAR, you are not too smart, at all! Stenhouse shouldn’t have done what he did after the race but Busch to be fined nothing or penalized nothing is absolutely wrong. Of course Busch has a bigger name so you can’t do the right thing, can you? I am loosing interest in NASCAR more and more! Period! Disgraceful NASCAR, Disgraceful! To say the very least!

  6. chevelledude says


  7. I agree with Fast Eddie’s comment. I watched the yawn fest they called the all star race. Stenhouse got the short end of the stick there. The replay showed no contact, then KB dumps him. All on lap 2. I can understand his emotions Nascar wants drivers to show their emotions, then when they do, they get penalties. KB should have gotten some sort of penalty for the blatant dump, as Elliot did last season. Nascar will now use that footage in their commercials. Maybe they should throw Stenhouse and KB some cash. At the very least they should disclose that Stenhouse was fined for his actions. It’s getting easier to understand why the Almighty Nascar empire is crumbling away brick by brick, and tracks are abandoning them year after year, in favor of self promotion.

  8. Crazy in NY says

    Simply pointing out both NASCAR and media go for the sensational but find it ironic one calling out the other. With all due respect Shawn you can stand so close to a tree and never see the leaves.

  9. Crazy in NY,
    Whats the “ironic” part about the media questioning the sanctioning body?


    Shawn, Great article and it is refreshing to read an article that tells it like it is. Busch is no angel and its okay to park someone but not okay to have a heated discussion that ended up in a big brawl. NASCAR knew something was going to happen but they wanted to reap the awards of the fight then spank RICKY. NASCAR’s attitude for the last 60 years is “IF YOU PLAY IN MY PLAYGROUND WE TELL YOU HOW TO PLAY”. That attitude is bringing NASCAR down. My question to everyone is —-WHERE WILL NASCAR BE IN 25 YEARS? Stafford is doing fantastic with out the NASCAR sanction and believe me that would have never happened if Bill, Jr. was still alive.

  11. Art Bichsel says

    My $0.02:
    The fine seems excessive. And “rowdy” getting off seemingly free & clear is confusing. At the local level, rough riding or causing a wreck gets you sent to the rear at the minimum. The “Winston” was marketed after the “pass in the grass” endlessly. Not the exact same but using on track activity fueled by passion none the less. Not apples to apples I know. I watched the race because of N.Wilksboro.
    Period. What happened to that place was inexcusable to me. But I digress. Nascar lost me at the “cup level” a long while ago. I still follow the Modified Tour though. And at times, that isn’t always run very well either. Solution? I have none. Personalities will always grab the headlines before talent. It’s just the way it is.

  12. Dr Robert Neville says

    1989 Winston, Rusty wrecks Darrell for the win, mayhem breaks out in the garage, Humpy says he’s going to set up a boxing ring in the infield before the next week, World 600 sells out, Nascar does nothing about it because back then they knew how to run their organization.

  13. They should have let the 2 of them fight it out. Stenhouse would have given KB the best down of his life.

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