Automotive

NASCAR Driver Wrecks Another Under Caution, Basically Gets Free Weekend Off

GIF: Fox Sports (YouTube)

The rain-delayed NASCAR Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway on Sunday was kind of a mess, in that the driver who crossed the finish line first didn’t winand that one driver in the field, Johnny Sauter,got so mad at another that he wrecked him under caution.That’s a big no-no in NASCAR, and the sanctioning body is penalizing him accordingly by making him take a little vacation.

Perhaps he’ll take a trip to the beach, or maybe spend a few days binging a new show—you know, while he thinks long and hard about what he’s done.

The deed that preceded this punishment came more than halfway into the Truck Series race in Iowa, when some back-and-forth contact between Sauter and the No. 16 truck of Austin Hill ended in Hill sending Sauter into a spin. That brought out the yellow as well as Sauter’s inner anger, and Sauter came right back onto the track to wreck Hill while the race was under caution.

So NASCAR parked Sauter for the rest of the race.

That kind of thing doesn’t fly in NASCAR, as 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch learned when he wrecked Ron Hornaday under caution in a Friday Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011.

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NASCAR announced on Saturday that Busch would be parked for the weekend, including that day’s race in what’s now the Xfinity Series and Sunday’s Cup Series race (hey… “Xfinity” Series… get a real name that can stand alone from a sponsor). NASCAR took a similar approach with Sauter, suspending him for one race: this Saturday’s Truck Series race at Gateway in Illinois. NASCAR didn’t mention any fines or points penalties for Sauter in the announcement.

NASCAR announced at the time that Sauter’s team hadn’t said whether it would appeal the suspension, but Sauter tweeted that he’d be racing at a short track six hours away from Gateway on Saturday night—slightly different than a beach trip or a binge, but a likely break from the regular job nonetheless.

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There’s a difference between the punishments, though, in more than that Busch runs Truck Series races more for fun than championships. NASCAR in 2019 is a lot different than it was in 2011, and, as Autoweek’s Matt Weaver also pointed out, suspending Sauter in the way that NASCAR did basically just gives him a weekend off. (That’s in terms of competition and aside from any potential team or sponsor reaction, such as Busch temporarily losing his M&M’s sponsorship in 2011 after wrecking Hornaday.)

NASCAR said in announcing the suspension that Sauter wouldn’t be barred from the series’ upcoming playoffs as a result of missing a race, which he’s already qualified for due to NASCAR’s transition from accumulating title points over the season to a “win one regular season race and you’re in the playoffs, so long as you run every race” format. There are a few caveats, but a regular-season win almost guarantees a driver a spot to compete for the title.

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Because that’s all more confusing than it should be, the gist is: Sauter has a win in 2019, thus has that almost certain playoff spot. The suspension won’t affect his playoff or title eligibility, so aside from a couple of points he could’ve scored at Gateway, he essentially gets to chill and do what he wants this weekend.

But don’t take this as an excuse to go plow into one of your work rivals—who totally has it coming, by the way—in exchange for a week off when the clock strikes 5 p.m. today, since, you know, the real world is slightly less forgiving.

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