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What will NASCAR focus on with the Gragson-Chastain fight?

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Noah Gragson and Ross Chastain capped off Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race with arguably a race-defining fight.

Gragson confronted Chastain after Gragson hit the wall while racing Chastain. Gragson grabbed Chastain, then Chastain appeared to have enough and punched Gragson in the face.

The scuffle was a first for this season and with rule changes made in the off-season.

NASCAR rulebook section 4.4 details member code of conduct penalty options and guidelines. In 2022, the action “Member-to-Member confrontation(s) with physical violence” fell under subsection B, which calls for:

  • “A loss of 25-50 driver/team owner points and $50,000-$100,000 fine…[possible] race suspension(s), indefinite suspension, or termination/membership revocation”

In 2023, that action specifies “striking another competitor” as an example of physical violence. It also falls under subsection D, which calls for:

  • “A fine and/or indefinite suspension, or termination/membership revocation”

Other actions punishable by subsection D include:

  • Selling NASCAR Single Event Credentials
  • Being charged with or convicted of significant criminal violations (e.g. Domestic Violence, Trafficking, Assault)

This year, NASCAR indefinitely suspended crew member Joshua Creech for allegedly selling single-event credentials. The sanctioning body also suspended Cody Ware after deputies charged him with domestic violence last month.

So, what will NASCAR focus on with Ross Chastain after he hit Noah Gragson? A possible penalty may not be as severe as Creech and Ware’s penalties.

Last fall, Austin Hill punched Myatt Snider in the face after the Xfinity Series race at Martinsville.

NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said Hill’s actions “crossed a line” but the precedent wasn’t there to penalize him.

Since 2012, the sanctioning body only levied penalties for fighting in just three fights but none since 2016.

In the fall, O’Donnell added NASCAR would “look at it all in the off-season.” Then, in the off-season, NASCAR made changes to the member code of conduct penalty options and guidelines on physical contact.

NASCAR has new guidelines but the nature of Sunday’s fight, compared to the fight last fall, may set it apart.

Whereas Gragson grabbed Chastain before Chastain punched him Sunday, Snider never appeared to lay a hand on Hill before Hill punched him last fall.

Sunday almost mirrored Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears’ fight at Richmond in April 2014 – one of three fights NASCAR recently levied penalties for.

Mears walked up to Ambrose and grabbed him, then pushed him – until Ambrose punched Mears in the face. Then, nearby personnel broke up the fight.

Afterward, NASCAR put Ambrose and Mears on probation, then gave Ambrose a $25,000 fine and Mears a $15,000 fine.

While NASCAR has stricter rules, the fight doesn’t seem to warrant the same consequences as what Hill’s punch would’ve warranted if the same rules were in place last fall.

If NASCAR penalizes Gragson and Chastain, it’ll likely be a fine and probation, rather than a suspension.

No matter what penalties NASCAR does – or doesn’t – levy, it’ll set a precedent for how the sanctioning body uses its new rules to handle physical contact.

UPDATE: NASCAR did not penalize Ross Chastain or Noah Gragson for the post-race scuffle.

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