Monday, March 4, 2024

Matt Crafton, Nick Sanchez fined after Talladega scuffle

Matt Crafton and Nick Sanchez have been respectively fined UDS$25,000 (€23,888.75) and $5,000 (€4,777.75) for their fight at the end of Saturday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday. The latter’s father Rene Sanchez has also been suspended for the rest of the year. All three were penalised under Sections 4.3.A and 4.4.D concerning NASCAR personnel conduct.

The brawl came in response to a wreck during the first overtime as Sanchez collided with Crafton, causing a massive crash that collected eight more trucks. While Sanchez was not particularly damaged and finished seventh, Crafton was relegated to twenty-fourth.

Afterwards, the two confronted each other in the garage with Sanchez and his family asserting Crafton had snuck up on him before delivering a sucker punch that dropped him to the pavement. With blood on his face, Sanchez yelled at Crafton, “I’m going to fucking kill you in Homestead! You fucked with the wrong guy, motherfucker,” while being separated by fellow driver Cory Roper.

“After the race, Nick and his PR-right hand lady, Christy, were walking next to each other back to his hauler,” recalled Sanchez’s mother Shanie on Facebook. “Rene and I were about 10 steps behind them. Then in a flash, another driver literally came out of nowhere (we think he was hiding behind some tires)- then tapped Nick on his shoulder from behind, when Nick turned his face to see who it was he then sucker punched Nick. Didn’t say a word, no confrontation, just flat out blindsided him. The driver had already changed out of his firesuit into plain clothes to blend in with everyone else. Obviously he was waiting for Nick to walk by- he had it planned.

“Like Nick said ‘it was a cheapshot’. Anyone who knows Nick knows he’s not an aggressor and would never do that to another driver or anyone else, but he didn’t even have a chance to defend himself.

“As a parent, the last thing you expect to see is someone assault and attack your son right in front of you. It’s hard to put into words- sickening is an understatement. I don’t know what else to say. I’m still shaken up and extremely sad. This was all because of an on track incident which happens all the time, that’s racing. After watching the video, most people are stating it wasn’t Nick’s fault. Regardless of who’s fault, to not even come up to Nick and talk about it and have a discussion is so classless and cowardly. Especially coming from a 47 year old, veteran driver who should be a role model. Yes – a 47 year old taking a cheap shot at Nick.”

Crafton gave his side of the story on Sunday, writing his own lengthy description on social media:

“First, let’s address the ‘sucker punch.’ Before the cameras started rolling I approached Nick and said ‘hey’ when he turned around I said ‘what the —?!’ to which he looked right at me and threatened me. That is when it all went to hell. I had his attention, words were exchanged, all before anything physical took place, so I did not ‘sucker punch’ the guy. There may not be video, but there were plenty of eye witnesses.

“Second, what people don’t take into account is that he all but ‘sucker punched’ me at 200 mph. The way he pushed my truck gave me no ability to get out of the situation and he was told multiple times during that race the way he was pushing people was going to cause a wreck and going to get people hurt.

“There is a consistent pattern of certain drivers having a lack of respect on the track, and it was time for someone to say something. Am I proud that it got physical, no, but last time I checked everyone on that track is a grown adult. If a man looks at me and threatens me, I am going to react. Especially when tempers are already flared from being wrecked on the track.

“I apologize to my team, my sponsors and partners, my family, and the NASCAR community for the negativity and for taking attention away from a good day of racing at Talladega.”

Cup Series driver Chandler Smith was also fined at the end of the Talladega weekend, being docked $10,000 (€9,555.50) for not wearing a helmet sock during qualifying.