FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — When NASCAR decided not to fine Austin Dillon for running Cole Custer into a wall last week in Phoenix, other drivers were left wondering how the sport decides who gets fined and who gets away with rambunctious behavior.
“Give me my money back,” Danica Patrick said Friday at Fontana.
Patrick is among several drivers who have been fined for on-track shenanigans seemingly less egregious than the scrape between Dillon and Custer.
Dillon deliberately ran into Custer’s Ford while under caution during the Xfinity race at Phoenix last weekend. Dillon was responding in anger after Custer made contact with him earlier, spinning him into contact with the wall.
Custer and Dillon met with NASCAR officials on Friday morning, and the matter is apparently closed with apologies and regrets on both sides.
“It went really good,” Custer said of the meeting. “We both have things that we wish we would have done different in the moment, but it is what it is, and we’ll just try to move on from it.”
Patrick was among the drivers who were surprised and confused by NASCAR’s decision, recalling her own fine for a disagreement with Kasey Kahne last year at Fontana. She also got fined in 2015 for retaliation against David Gilliland after trouble at Martinsville.
While concerned about NASCAR’s apparently nebulous justice, Patrick also has a bigger concern: Why is NASCAR getting mad about the stuff that draws fans and attention to the sport in the first place?
“I think NASCAR makes a really big mistake of fining for some stuff, especially something that happens in the car, because it makes for good TV,” Patrick said. “Just like fights and all that stuff. We can handle it. I think it’s a mistake. I might be speaking too much, but I’ve been fined a few times, and I think that it makes for good TV, and I think that we handle it out on the track ourselves.”
Dillon and Custer are the second pair of drivers to recently get away from a scrape with no bigger penalty than a stern talking-to, perhaps signaling a new standard of punishment for the new season.
The teams of Kyle Busch and Joey Logano came to actual blows during a post-race scuffle in Las Vegas two weeks ago, yet they were only forced to speak to NASCAR officials.
Patrick doesn’t disagree with the apparent new standards of discipline, but she also would like to know why fines are levied in the first place. The money collected from fines goes to the NASCAR Foundation and its various charitable ventures.
“I mean, what does that really do?” Patrick asked. “I’m not going to not go on vacation. I would actually rather know what it did. I would actually love to see the playground that got built for it, or homeless people that got food. I would like to see actually what the money does, because it’s supposed to go to charity, right? So what does it really do? I would like to see that.”