Kyle Busch’s historic win at Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event on Bristol’s dirt-lined track probably shouldn’t have happened. In the closing laps of the event, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe were battling it out for the lead when Briscoe lost control and wiped both drivers’ chances at taking a win. It’s becoming a common enough trend that it’s time to start asking: When is NASCAR going to start penalizing these late-race wreckers?
The nature of Bristol’s dirt race meant wrecks were likely to happen, and happen they did. But it should also have been clear to Briscoe that a late-race dive on Reddick wasn’t going to end well for either driver thanks to the narrow, changeable track surface and the large, heavy vehicles.
But things may have been different if NASCAR issued some sort of penalty for drivers initiating a last-lap wreck.
Granted, the Bristol situation was complex, but Briscoe has made a last-lap dive for the lead before, at last year’s event in Indianapolis, during which time he took out himself and the leader. And it’s a move that has been repeated time and again in NASCAR races throughout history.
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While there are undoubtedly fans that enjoy the crash chaos, plenty of other people were firmly disappointed with the end of the Bristol dirt race — myself included. The battle for first place between Briscoe, Reddick, and Busch was an incredible one, but all that excitement fizzled out as soon as there was contact and Busch could slip through to take the checkered flag. My husband cheered the finale; I let out an annoyed, “Oh.”
I like NASCAR. I like that drivers are allowed to beat and bang a little bit. I don’t want the series to become over-regulated, where we have to have discussions about what jewelry or underwear drivers are allowed to wear (I’m looking at you, Formula One). It’s also extremely frustrating to see a good finish spoiled by someone who doesn’t mind getting wrecked in the off chance that it might result in a win. Other intentional — or seemingly intentional — NASCAR wrecks are penalized, so why should we continue letting someone take out the leader? It doesn’t make for good television. It makes for bad racing. And it's time for NASCAR to change that.