$hit is getting expensive - The Earnhardt Jr. fiasco
by David Cipolloni
 October 6, 2004

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates Talladega win
CIA Stock Photo

I can certainly understand the reasoning behind the need for good role models for our young folks, and the need to encourage our sports figures to behave in a professional manner. Dale Earnhardt Jr. used a bit of poor judgment when he, in a moment of jubilation after the win at Talladega, uttered the word “$hit”.

While using this word is not permissible by NASCAR rules, we should consider the context in which it was used. Certainly Dale Jr. was not implying that someone didn’t know $hit about this or that, or that he didn’t give a $hit about this or that, he simply remarked that his five wins at Talladega paled in comparison to his father's 10 wins. If ever the word could be used in a positive manner this was probably one of those cases.

I understand that NASCAR is obligated to impose a fine for such an utterance, and the rules should apply to everyone, but a little common sense should emerge in regards to the nature of the penalty. Maybe $10,000 is not a lot of money to a celebrity like Dale Jr, but 25 points could cost the entire team the championship.

Is this a fair penalty to the team and team sponsors? Is it commensurate to the offense, especially considering how it occurred? It’s not like the “F” word was used, or vulgarities spewed in a derogatory way about another driver, team or NASCAR itself.

In a lawful society we sometimes get overenthusiastic in the implementation of the rules in which we live by, trying to enforce them regardless of the circumstances. In fairness to NASCAR they do need to be firm, fair, and consistent in regards to rule enforcement.

Earnhardt won on the track, but lost to the officials
CIA Stock Photo

Has the pendulum of fairness swung too far in the NASCAR business? A series born from the days of bootlegging whiskey where there was little in the way of rules, to a series where the races, teams, and drivers are controlled like robotic devices?

The fans expect the drivers to be bold, daring, and fearless in an environment of extreme danger, racing at high speeds where one wrong move can spell disaster for you and your fellow drivers. Then, in the excitement of the winners circle, where emotions run high, a slip of the tongue occurs…….uh oh!

Are we really all that sensitive these days? Well, I guess maybe in the racing business sometimes $hit happens.

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