Bark without much bite

Jay Hart
Yahoo! SportsAugust 30, 2008

FONTANA, Calif. – NASCAR on Wednesday put Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards on probation for the next six races. But what exactly does this mean?

Jimmie Johnson, who has never been in NASCAR's dog house but knows about it because his crew chief has, says probation is just the word. What it actually means depends on the offense.

“It just depends on how intense that meeting was with NASCAR," Johnson said. "I’m sure there are probations that are kind of like a slap on the hand and then there are probations where they might have you by the shirt saying, 'You do this again, you’re really in trouble.' That’s really where the question lies.

"I’m not really sure what type of probation they’re on. I know it's one word but it might be many levels to it.”

NASCAR president Mike Helton said this probation means Busch and Edwards are "on notice that they've used up all their forgiveness."

NASCAR didn't like it when Busch rammed into Edwards' car following last Saturday's race at Bristol, and that Edwards retaliated by spinning out Busch.

For this, they'll get the watchful eye for the next six races. But will this matter any more than Hillary Clinton suspending the roll call vote on the floor of the Democratic National Convention?

While symbolic, Clinton's gesture had absolutely no bearing on what happened next, and neither will Busch and Edwards being placed on probation.

"I've been on (probation) before and it didn't change anything for me," Kasey Kahne said. "I think what it means is you can't go and just crash somebody."

Or in this case, go and crash somebody after the race, which shouldn't be all that hard to avoid.

What's interesting is Edwards doesn't regret a thing. Sure, he feels bad for beating up his race car, but he's not losing any sleep.

"I did what I felt was best at the time," he said. "In the grand scheme of things, I don't think there was really anything that was that bad about last week. I thought it was just real good hard racing, and what happened afterward is stuff that happens at every short track all around the country every week."

When asked what NASCAR would do if either Busch or Edwards were to purposefully run into the other again – Would they be suspended for a race? Docked points? Fined? – Helton didn't bite, saying they don't deal in hypotheticals.

Reading between the lines, it means NASCAR reserves the right to decide what the punishment should be on a case-by-case basis.

"We understand that whatever reaction we make has ramifications to it," Helton said, the ramifications being the impact on sponsors, teams and the competition itself. "But we still got to do our job."

So do Busch and Edwards. And they will, without giving this probation thing a second thought.