NASCAR is not suspending Matt Crafton after his altercation with Nick Sanchez following the Truck Series race at Talladega on Saturday.
Sanchez, 22, was left with a bloodied face after he said that he was hit by a “cheap shot” from Crafton, 47. Contact between Crafton and Sanchez triggered a 14-truck wreck late in the race that eliminated Crafton from contention.
“Cheap shot, it is what it is, I guess,” Sanchez said while speaking to media presenters at Talladega after the altercation. “I’m all for fighting, but no cheap shots. I got a cheap shot, never really had a chance to get him back.”
A video of part of the altercation is below. It contains strong language.
Crafton issued a statement to social media on Sunday. He claimed he didn’t sucker punch Sanchez and that Sanchez “all but ‘sucker punched’ me at 200 mph” to cause the wreck. Crafton said that he was not proud the altercation between the two was physical “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.”
Instead of a suspension, Crafton was fined $25,000, while Sanchez was fined $5,000. Sanchez’s father had his access to the Truck Series garage revoked through the end of the season because of his part in the altercation.
NASCAR vice president Elton Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the sanctioning body considered suspending Crafton. However, he alluded to punches being thrown by Sanchez’s father as a reason for his suspension and appeared to set a double standard for the conduct of drivers and everyone else.
“I think if you look at our history with our drivers and how we’ve handled these situations, a suspension was definitely considered,” Sawyer said. “We had long conversations about that with our group and this is where we landed. We felt like with some of the comments that were made by Nick — and we totally understand that’s in the heat of the battle, understanding the situation — but we just can’t have those type of comments. So that’s why he received the fine that he received.
“And then on Matt’s side, we looked at the fact that Matt had had some time to think about the situation. It wasn’t like both drivers got out on pit road, heat of the battle and they go down and they have a discussion with each other. This one spilled over into the garage sometime after the event. Felt like [that] could have been handled different and that’s why Matt’s fine was at $25,000.”
A suspension for Crafton would have snapped a consecutive starts streak that dates back to the final race of the 2000 season. The three-time Truck Series champion has competed in 542 consecutive truck series races. He has 15 career wins, though his last win came over three seasons ago.