Iopinion: Talk Is Cheap/I

NASCAR's continued slap on the wrist has become a slap in the face to many fans, drivers and teams.

After all the craziness and downright dangerous activity during Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, the sanctioning body once again chose to penalize drivers in its usual way - through monetary fines and points penalties.

Big deal.

Every time a driver goes beyond the boundary of sportsmanship, NASCAR waves its finger sternly and says it will come down hard to stop such behavior.

And the end result is always the same - a gentle "stop doing that" rather than a stern punishment.

Even my two-year-old daughter knows when we're bluffing.

This latest mess started at Bristol, when Dale Jarrett's payback to Ryan Newman was met with a two-lap penalty - not much of a punishment to a driver who was already several laps down.

It escalated to a full crescendo Sunday with first Kurt Busch being allowed to march down pit road - with NASCAR officials and a horde of media-types in tow - to confront Scott Rigg's crew chief Rodney Childers after the No. 10 and No. 97 made contact, with Busch's day ending early into the second turn wall.

Round two came when Kasey Kahne retalliated against Kyle Busch for their tangle, with Kahne's battered mount somehow finding its way into the front of Busch's car under caution.

And of course the headliner on Sunday was the Michael Waltrip-Robby Gordon match, which featured flying helmets and profanity on live network television for good measure.

After parking everyone for ten minutes - "a behavorial timeout" according to Matt Kenseth - NASCAR bellowed its usual bluster about how it would crackdown on such activities, once and for all.

"There have been a growing number of incidents lately where drivers have taken matters into their own hands. Such unsafe and inappropriate behavior has to stop," said NASCAR President Mike Helton.

"NASCAR will use whatever means necessary to stop it."

But rather than a suspension of Gordon, Kahne, Waltrip or Busch, Monday brought the usual round of petty fines and points taken away.

That'll teach 'em.

Taking $10,000 or even $25,000 away from a millionaire athlete is a waste of time. Docking points from drivers who have nothing to lose in the standings is as well, although in the case of Gordon he was very close to making the top 35, which would have assured him a starting spot in the final races of the season.

But overall, what NASCAR did on Monday wasn't any different than what it has done in the past when rules are broken or behavior is deemed unruly.

NASCAR needs to follow the NBA's lead, which finally got tired of the fights and general unruly activity going on around the game until it boiled over into that ugly scene between the Pistons and Pacers with players and fans fighting in the stands.

The league didn't just hand out fines, it sat down players - for a long time - to get control back of its sport.

NASCAR needs to do the same. Until someone gets a weeklong timeout and a driver is parked for a race, the behavior will continue. And the kids will stay out of hand.

Where's "Nanny 911" when you need her?

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