CARS Tour owner Jack McNelly released a statement on Wednesday morning detailing the decision to suspend driver Brandon Setzer and car owner Dennis Setzer, while also responding to social media criticism about how the entire process was handled.
McNelly also brought to life previously unknown facts about the fight between the Setzers and Kyle Busch Motorsport crewmembers associated with driver Raphael Lessard.
First the statement:
“The decision to suspend Brandon and Dennis Setzer for the off track altercation that occurred at Hickory Motor Speedway on May 5, 2018 was my sole decision as the owner of the CARS Tour. The penalties were announced directly to Super Late Model teams via email, per our normal procedure. Unfortunately a CARS Tour employee posted this email publicly, which is against our policy and that is why it was later removed from social media. We apologize for this error in judgment.
“The suspensions and fines issued to Brandon and Dennis Setzer are consistent with past occurrences, dating back to a similar incident last October at South Boston Speedway. The suspension of five (5) races and fines of $425 to each Brandon and Dennis are an exact duplication of what was issued post-race in that off track incident at South Boston. These penalties are completely unrelated to the on-track incident, as Brandon did not violate any rules behind the wheel of his car. Raphael Lessard was issued a rough driving penalty and sent to the rear of the field, per the race procedure rule book, for violating a rule on track.
“The suspension and fines stem from Brandon and Dennis entering the pit area of Raphael Lessard’s #51 team with the intention of starting a physical altercation. I believe that two drivers have the right to settle disputes, but other team and crew members should not be involved. Fighting among Super Late Model teams has become a common occurrence this season, and while that may be acceptable to some, I do not want CARS Tour to be known for fights at every event. All licensed competitors are responsible for reading and following our published rule book, which plainly states that starting a fight or altercation will results in a fine and/or suspension. As with all penalties issued by CARS Tour, those issued this week are 100% appeal-able, and we encourage Brandon and Dennis to do so.
“We look forward to returning our focus to providing quality racing for competitors, teams, sponsors, and fans affiliated with the CARS Tour.”
Next, McNelly spoke to Short Track Scene by phone on Wednesday afternoon to provide additional context and feedback.
He said that he wanted to make clear that there was more to the fight than what the video broadcast revealed, specifically as it relates to Dennis Setzer physically assaulting François Lessard — Raphael’s father, breaking his glasses in the process.
All that was publicly known is that Brandon Setzer charged towards the KBM pit area, attempted a ‘superman punch’ before being tackled by crew members and track security.
McNelly reiterated that he encourages the Setzers to appeal the penalty, because he is looking forward to better understanding what the father-son duo were thinking in the heat of the moment. He acknowledged the loyalty of the Setzers, citing the three years of series loyalty from the No. 6 team.
With that said, McNelly wanted to make clear that he has become increasingly disenchanted with the amount of fighting that has taken place in Super Late Model racing this season, citing the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville brawl between Steven Wallace and Mason Mingus, and the Five Flags Speedway fracas between Stephen Nasse and Donnie Wilson.
“If we’re going to be about fighting and not racing, then I’m in the wrong business and I need to do something else,” McNelly told Short Track Scene by phone.
“I feel like we’ve put on some really good racing and close competition and that needs to be the story. I won’t accept that and I can’t accept that. It’s in our rule book and it was consistent with how we handled South Boston. I think it’s very important that we are consistent.
“But we can’t encourage an environment, with the parts and tools that are inside the pit area, where someone can get hurt. We just can’t have that.”
Another point of contention from fans, drivers and media, was how the series mishandled the flow of information concerning the penalties on Tuesday night. As stated in the statement above, McNelly admitted that it was a mistake to have posted the penalty on social media since that is against the league’s policy of handling matters privately.
As McNelly sees it, he wanted to be respectful to the process and not “air the team’s dirty laundry” in the public sphere.
However, if penalties are not made public, as was the case in both Nashville and Pensacola, how will fans know what the expectations are? After all, how many fans are familiar with the CARS Tour rule book when they purchase a ticket or broadcast subscription.
Having been a longtime NASCAR team owner, McNelly is aware of how other sanctioning bodies handle penalties and admitted that perhaps this was a lesson to be more transparent with such matters in the future.
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