By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Everybody is getting bent out of shape about Clint Bowyer’s three race probation after spinning out Denny Hamlin in last week’s Nationwide race at Dover. The reason that people don’t understand the penalty is that it is the exact same punishment Carl Edwards suffered after sending Brad Keselowski for a wild ride at Atlanta just months ago.
Yes Edwards went for his retaliation at speeds in excess of 180 miles per hour, while Bowyer went for his retribution at the slower pace of a caution, but there is one reason that the punishment for both situations should be the same.
That reason is simply Steve Park. For those who know the story of Steve Park, and are still questioning this penalty let me just say one thing… It’s amazing how quickly we forget that anything can happen at any time on a racetrack.
For those more recent or younger fans that don’t know about Steve Park, he was an up and coming driver that was making his mark on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driving for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. He was coming off of a win and an 11th-place finish in the points in 2000, and his career looked extremely bright.
The 2001 season started off on a somber note for Park, and his Dale Earnhardt Incorporated team, as their owner and friend Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last lap crash in the Daytona 500. Despite the incredibly tragic start to the season, Park would win the very next week at Rockingham, and it was looking to be a banner year for the young driver.
That is until his career and more importantly his life were in jeopardy following a crash in a Nationwide race at Darlington later that season.
Under caution in the South Carolina 200, Park was weaving back and forth to clean his tires for the upcoming restart, when all of a sudden his steering wheel popped off of his steering collumn. This sent park veering straight left down the track, when he was t-boned by Larry Foyt, who was going incredibly fast to catch up with the pack before the green flag came out.
Steve Park was never the same after that crash, but he was lucky to survive.
This is why we shouldn’t be questioning NASCAR for making Bowyer’s penalty equal to that of Edwards’ earlier in the season… Anything can happen at anytime on a race track, no matter what the speed, or what condition of the activities on the track, and we should never forget that.
We have become so confident in the safety of the race cars here recently that it seems that we have almost forgotten that our heroes can be injured, or more seriously killed if and when things go wrong.
I fully support the correlation in the penalties, and I actually think that each of them should have had a stiffer punishment.