NASCAR Truck Drivers Fight Draws Attention of NASCAR Executives
The potential penalty phase for Saturday night’s NASCAR Truck drivers fight between Spencer Gallagher and John Wes Townley is scheduled this week, with NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell saying that repercussions were likely.
Click here to watch the video of the fight at Gateway Motorsports Park.
O’Donnell’s remarks came Monday during a guest appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” program.
Gallagher and Townley collided twice during Saturday’s Drivin’ For Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park. The second crash eliminated both drivers from the race and triggered an on-track wrestling match after both drivers exited their crumpled trucks.
Both drivers were summoned to the Camping World Truck Series hauler after the wreck to consult with NASCAR officials. The incident will be discussed further once competition officials return from Sonoma Raceway, site of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“We’ll look at all the video feeds we have,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM. “We’ve certainly talked to both drivers post-race and got their side of things, so to speak, but we’ll have our discussions coming back from the West Coast usually late Tuesday, early Wednesday. We’ll kind of have an evaluation and talk to everyone about where we stand on that.
“Certainly not our best moment, for sure. Two passionate drivers … you know, again, that’s part of things sometimes when emotions run high but certainly don’t like to see that where it occurred, especially out on the race track.”
O’Donnell said the competition team would weigh the potential intent or retaliation in the second incident. While O’Donnell said he appreciates the passion of drivers in the heat of competition, he said it remains a delicate border to tread.
“I think it’s a balance,” O’Donnell said. “I think we talk to the drivers, certainly we want them to show their emotions, but it’s a balance for us. We’d certainly like to see drivers if they’re going to express their emotions be outside of a race car. That’s where we really jump in and react when it’s drivers using their race cars beyond what’s normal in the race. That’s a huge issue for us and we’re going to react heavily when we have to.
“In this case, there still will be repercussions, for sure, but again we want to make sure drivers, if they’re going to do anything, are outside of their car, but certainly don’t encourage what happened at Gateway.”
Gallagher issued a statement through his team’s (GMS Racing) Facebook account.
Click here to read Spencer Gallagher’s letter to the fans.
Among other topics O’Donnell discussed Monday:
— As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it will mark one year since Austin Dillon’s tumbling last-lap crash into the 2.5-mile track’s catch fencing. O’Donnell lauded the safety measures that kept Dillon uninjured and said that officials at the NASCAR Research and Development Center were busy with more than a dozen initiatives designed to improve safety.
O’Donnell said a safety council “within all the teams” has been created, increasing the collaborative effort toward safeguarding the sport.
“I think what often gets forgotten is this is a dangerous sport, so we’re going to do everything in our power to protect the drivers, the crews and the fans, so that’s our No. 1 priority,” O’Donnell said. “One of the things that often gets lost is when you do have an incident, one of the first things we check is, ‘did everything we had in place work?’ And when you look in the case of Austin Dillon, all belts, the seat, a lot of the different things we did with the seatbelt configuration all worked. It did its job and you saw that he was able to walk away from that incident unharmed. So those are kind of the first things, verifying.
“The second piece is, you can have assumptions and think something may work, but that takes time to go test it, to re-enact any incident to make sure it’s going to be safe, to make sure it’s going to work. And then work with the teams, and the teams have been tremendous in terms of when they know there’s something that’s going to work, getting it in the car — we do that immediately, but there is a process you’ve got to go through to make sure the assumptions work, then you’re able to go test them so you know you’re ready at high speed for everything to work as it was designated to.”
— After a particularly tumultuous race in May at Talladega Superspeedway, O’Donnell said no rules changes will be in place at Daytona, where similar rules are used to restrict horsepower and lower speeds.
“I think we looked at a lot of things more specifically around Talladega when we go back,” O’Donnell said of the Alabama track’s race date in October. “We saw the race in Daytona and certainly felt we were in a good place heading into that race, but again I go back to the number of projects that are ongoing with the race teams, so some of those may not be as visible to some of the drivers out there, but very confident that the race teams know where we are and what we’re working together to achieve.”
— O’Donnell said he applauded the full-contact racing between Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin in the last lap of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Sonoma, where Stewart claimed a crowd-pleasing victory to end an 84-race skid.
“I’m not surprised,” O’Donnell said of the largely positive reaction to Stewart’s win. “He’s one of the more popular drivers that we have and to win in the fashion he did, this goes back to winning and what really matters in a race. I know from time to time, we talk about where’s the line in racing and hopefully, that’s understood. Going for wins and battling door to door is what we’re all about. We saw that multiple times, especially on the last lap of that race.
“So, a lot of respect between the drivers, but knowing how much a win means and propelling someone to the Chase is important. Proud of what Tony did; equally proud of what Denny did in racing each other hard and going for a win.”
Photos: GMS Racing