Daniel Suarez & Kelley Earnhardt Call Out NASCAR for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fine

Daniel Suarez at North Wilkesboro.

Getty Daniel Suarez watches practice.

A few days after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. punched Kyle Busch and started a melee in the garage following the May 19 All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro, NASCAR announced a $75,000 fine for the JTG Daugherty driver, as well as suspensions to Stenhouse’s father and two crew members on the No. 47 team. 

News of the sanctioning body’s punishment specific to the 2023 Daytona 500 champion was not well received by fellow Cup driver Daniel Suarez and JR Motorsports executive Kelley Earnhardt.

“If it’s so wrong then why is it all over NASCAR social channels?” the Trackhouse Racing driver pointed out on X. “We should be allowed to show our emotions, I don’t get it…”

“I just said the same thing to a friend Daniel!” the JRM CEO and co-owner replied. “Nascar has exploited the hell out of it and then this???”

Many Fans Agree NASCAR Got It Wrong 

Suarez and Earnhardt weren’t alone in their disbelief in NASCAR’s decision. Many fans chimed in and agreed.

“Atta boy, Daniel!! LET THEM KNOW!” one fan responded.

“Agreed. Hockey rules,” another fan replied. “NASCAR loved the attention and it brings eye balls. Fighting is apart of racing just like hockey.”

“Answers we all would like to know. As a NASCAR fan since 1985. I will never understand the logic of Nascar,” said another fan.

NASCAR Provides Explanation for Decision

NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio May 22 to discuss the fight and resulting penalties. After talking about the suspensions to the crew members and Stenhouse’s father, Sawyer specifically addressed the fine to the driver.

“When you wait, you know, 198 laps, and you make those decisions that were made, again, we’re going to react to that,” Sawyer said. “There could have been different decisions made. Once we start to get to the point where it gets physical, we want the two drivers to be able to have their time to express their differences, but again, once it escalates to where there’s been a physical altercation there, you know, again, we’re going to react.

“And granted, there was no tunnel. Granted, there was no crossover bridge, but better decisions could have been made throughout that period of time between the incident that happened on the racetrack and the incident that happened in the garage post-race.”

NASCAR Penalties Have Been Inconsistent in Past

As the one fan wrote on X, NASCAR and its use of logic can be confusing. Last year provides the perfect example. There were two well-known brawls in 2023 and the governing body made completely different rulings on each.

The most notable fight occurred when Ross Chastain punched Noah Gragson on pit road after the May 7 Kansas Cup race. Neither driver was penalized.   

Sawyer appeared on SiriusXM a couple of days later and said neither driver would face a penalty, but acknowledged officials were monitoring tensions between the pair.

“We’ll continue to have some dialogue with those two organizations to make sure we’re in a good place, but thought that Noah and Ross both, they got to a level there that, obviously we would have preferred not to have seen, but they were both showing their displeasure of what happened,” Sawyer said. “But again, it’s an emotional sport, and from time to time you are going to have disagreements and you’re gonna see that.”

While neither Cup driver was penalized for their behavior at Kansas, later in the year, NASCAR handed down penalties to Matt Crafton and Nick Sanchez following the September 30 Talladega race, where the pair were involved in a crash, and then Crafton, in a move similar to Stenhouse at North Wilkesboro, drove his truck to Sanchez’s pit stall to show his displeasure.

The pair later got into a fight in the garage and NASCAR fined Crafton $25,000 and Sanchez $5,000 for their actions. Sanchez’s father, Rene, was suspended for the remaining two races of the Truck Series season for his involvement.