NASCAR has suspended Xfinity Series driver Josh Williams one race for parking his car on the start/finish line at Atlanta Motor Speedway during Saturday’s race.
less, the athleteJordan Bianchi and Jeff Gluck share their thoughts on the news.
What was your initial reaction?
Bianchi: When you saw Williams not only park his car, but then decide to get out and walk across the infield to the pits, your first thought was, “There’s no way this guy isn’t suspended for racing.” But as support for him swelled across social media, the idea became, “Maybe NASCAR will make it easier for him while still sending the message that this will not be tolerated.”
Well, scratch that idea. NASCAR acted exactly as we thought in the beginning. And while Williams is a sympathetic character, it’s probably the right call because such actions can never be justified.
glock: While this isn’t a huge shock, it still feels like a soft-spoken response by NASCAR. Historically, questioning NASCAR’s authority or taking any actions to embarrass officials never ends well for the offender. Not only did Williams stop and leave his car on the track, he threw the tie and waved to the officials as he walked across the track. If NASCAR controlled the weather, it would hit a button to get hit by a lightning bolt right then and there. But when you think of Williams’ position as a vagabond old driver for a small, underfunded team who felt he was unfairly caught, it’s hard to blame him for his actions.
Did NASCAR get it right with Williams suspension?
Bianchi: Penalties are supposed to send a message, and when a driver blatantly gives the proverbial middle finger, how are the officials supposed to act? This is a fairly black and white decision with no shades of gray when you look at the act and how NASCAR has previously responded to such behavior.
glock: It depends on any point of view. In the court of public opinion? No, fans will rally around Williams even more than they already have, creating some kind of folk hero in the process. in the garage? Also no. It’s possible that the riders and crew members feel strongly about Williams’ position and support him, even if they are silent about it for fear of retribution. But from a formal point of view? You could certainly argue that NASCAR’s hand was forced to maintain some sense of order. And when Denny Hamlin offered to pay Williams’ fine and announced it, NASCAR may have decided that no fine would be enough to send a message. However, this whole thing happened because NASCAR made a questionable call to Park Williams and invoked a rarely used rule in doing so, giving the sense that they were picking off a small team in the midst of a race full of caution.
Josh Williams stopped it…literally…on the start-finish line. pic.twitter.com/e42EV2u21g
– Fox: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 18, 2023
What message does this send from NASCAR?
Bianchi: While you may not like an umpire, and as heavy as the umpire may seem, this is still a NASCAR sandbox and participants must stick to its decisions—especially when it comes to what officials say during a race. If you don’t like it, don’t play in the NASCAR sandbox.
glock: Jordan’s response above is a very traditional NASCAR approach to tuning the sport. He is right in being the message sent. But is this the right message these days? NASCAR is eager for any publicity right now, and the tracks have already taken an opportunity to market Williams’ antics as something funny or entertaining. Bristol Motor Speedway made a social media post showing a parking spot reserved for Williams at the start/finish line, and the Circuit of the Americas—the site of this weekend’s race—has started selling two tickets for a $92 package (a reference to Williams’ number). The Car). But now Williams will not be on the right track. The huge fine may have been more productive for both NASCAR and Williams, as it would have sent a message while also allowing Williams to be a story this weekend. NASCAR clearly has no interest in that.
What’s next for Williams?
Bianchi: The great support that Williams had was fantastic. He’s a good guy, he has a good story and the kind of driver that is the essence of NASCAR. It’s easy for fans to cheer him on. Now, let’s see if all of this publicity and newfound fandom translates into an increase in sponsorship money, something Williams desperately needs if he is to take the next step in his career.
glock: Williams has gained a group of new fans who may not have been aware of his story before. His first act to capitalize on his newfound fame? He’s selling T-shirts that say “PARK IT” and showing off his damaged car, except all proceeds go toward the Josh Williams Hospital tour. If you weren’t aware, Williams has made nearly 200 visits to children’s hospitals (including over 100 different ones) with little to no fanfare. He’s one of the real “good guys” in the garage area, even if he doesn’t get a lot of attention while running for a team that doesn’t post many notable results. NASCAR needs drivers like him and should celebrate characters like Williams instead of trying to suppress them when they do something unusual or entertaining.
(Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)