NASCAR has fined Taylor Gray for the Snapchat video he posted during an ARCA test session at Daytona.
Gray, 15, has been fined $1,000 and placed on probation for the 2021 season after he filmed himself driving at Daytona on Friday. Gray was participating in the annual January ARCA test at the track and he used his phone to film himself driving down the backstretch at Daytona at a high rate of speed.
No cars appeared to be around Gray when he filmed the video. But NASCAR rules prohibit drivers from having their phones or any recording devices in the car while they’re racing, practicing or testing. The simple presence of Gray’s phone in the car violated that rule even if he didn’t use it to film a video or post it publicly to social media.
Is $1,000 too little of a fine?
It was reasonable to assume that NASCAR would make an example out of Gray with its punishment. It’s the first time the series has had to deal with a driver posting an in-car video like this to social media. And you can bet that NASCAR doesn’t want this to happen again.
NASCAR typically bases its fines on the level of series where the violation occurs. Fines in the fourth-tier ARCA Series are substantially lower than they are in the top-tier Cup Series. Had a Cup driver done what Gray did he would have received a larger fine.
But a $1,000 fine and probation seem like an incredibly skimpy punishment. And it’s a punishment that doesn’t feel like much of a deterrent either. Especially when Jennifer Jo Cobb received a base fine of $5,000 when she simply had her phone in her Truck during a Truck Series practice in 2015.
Gray clearly made a youthful mistake. And he didn’t need to face a punishment that was overly harsh or impacted his long-term career prospects. But he’s also the grandson of a man who sold the family’s oil company for $1.7 billion a decade ago.
It’s also a fine that’s substantially less than the cost of a set of racing tires. Shouldn’t the punishment for posting a video of yourself driving at Daytona to social media — you can argue the public nature of the video is the most significant aspect of the violation — be more than it costs to lease four tires for a race?
And heck, the social media views that Gray got on that video are probably worth more than the cost of the fine too. The video was posted publicly across other social media channels after Gray Snapchatted it. If you believe the theory that any publicity is good publicity, Gray certainly elevated his profile.
The same can be said for ARCA. The January test is typically a blip on the American racing calendar. Gray’s poor decision elevated the status of the test and provided the series with a moment that may be its most-discussed of 2021.
That’s not inconsequential for a series that can use all the exposure it can get. And also why NASCAR needed to take a strong stand. Precedent is irrelevant here; NASCAR hasn’t been shy about deviating from normal processes before and Gray is the first driver to commit a violation like this. NASCAR should have and could have penalized Gray more harshly. Even if it’s simply to send a strong public message to others that this should never happen again.
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