Spencer first driver in 30 years sent home for fighting

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

BRISTOL, Tenn. By fining and suspending Jimmy Spencer for bloodying Kurt Busch's nose, NASCAR sent yet another message that it doesn't enforce rules evenly and fairly.

Spencer was fined $25,000 and suspended from participating in the truck race Wednesday night, the Busch Series race Friday night and the Winston Cup race Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The National Stock Car Commission, which generally rubber-stamps NASCAR rulings, upheld the suspension Wednesday morning, making Spencer the first driver in at least 30 years to be sent home for fighting.

Michael Waltrip drew a fine for slugging Lake Speed at Michigan after a race in 1995, but he wasn't suspended. Elton Sawyer punched Ryan Newman in 2001 after a Busch Series race, and he wasn't suspended. Tony Stewart was fined last year for striking a photographer in the garage area at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he wasn't suspended. And who will ever forget the melee in the third turn after the 1979 Daytona 500 when Bobby and Donnie Allison fought with Cale Yarborough? None of them were suspended, even after their fracas was captured live by CBS Sports cameras.

''I know other people have punched (someone) before and they haven't missed races,'' said driver Ward Burton.

The commission listened to Spencer's side of the story Wednesday and, as expected, sided with NASCAR. This despite hearing some compelling information that Spencer probably didn't initiate the latest skirmish with the talented, yet temperamental, Busch.

A transcript of a two-way radio conversation Busch had with his pit crew during the race indicates Busch was purposely trying to give Spencer a flat tire by hitting him on the track.

Spencer's crew heard the chatter on their radios, so he was on the lookout for trouble. Whether Busch was seriousdoesn't matter, because there was contact between the two when Busch passed Spencer for the lead with 50 laps to go in the race.

''I was trying to flatten the 7 car (Spencer) fender and I got mine,'' Busch told his team during the race. ''I needed to be further forward on his car.''

His crew responded by saying, ''They just showed that on TV. You just missed by an inch or two. Ah, not far enough forward.''

Said Busch, ''Inches only count unless you're playing horseshoes and hand grenades. Ah, I don't want to play either with that clown.''

Jim Smith, Spencer's car owner, defended his driver, saying, ''(Busch) said it, and it proves he was trying to get into Jimmy. Kurt Busch has been saying all week that Jimmy started this, but we all know what was going on.''

Essentially, Spencer's version that Busch took the first swing by using his 3,400-pound race car during the race didn't matter to NASCAR.

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