Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Waltrip Isn't a Wreck over Two-Punch Fine

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Waltrip Isn't a Wreck over Two-Punch Fine

Article excerpt

Punches occasionally fly after races on local tracks, but watching Michael Waltrip trying to get in a couple of licks at Lake Speed after the Miller 400 at Michigan International Speedway was hilarious.

Hockey fights are usually harmless and funny, because combatants rarely get enough leverage to land a solid shot. Helmets and padding usually take the brunt of a blow.

But Waltrip vs. Speed on June 18 at Michigan probably set a new standard for inept fighting. It isn't exactly street smart to throw a punch through a window at someone sitting in a race car, wearing a helmet.

CBS was televising the event live, and brought this "championship bout" into living rooms across America.

Bobby Labonte had held off Jeff Gordon to win the Winston Cup race, but the action along pit road involved Waltrip and Speed. Michael believed Speed had tried to run him up into the wall on the slippery track late in the race.

"To me, it was pretty obvious that he didn't mean to give me any room," Waltrip said. "He meant for me to go up there. It upset me."

So, after the race, Waltrip blocked Speed's car on pit road. Michael walked over to him, lowered the net at the window and threw a punch. He talked a moment, then threw another punch and walked away.

Waltrip did little damage with his punches. Nonetheless, NASCAR fined him $10,000. Five grand for each lousy punch seems a tad high. Waltrip's car owner said he will refuse to pay a penny of the fine.

Kenny Schrader knew Waltrip was going to get hit hard in the wallet as soon as he saw him throw the first punch. Two months ago, Billy Ingle, crew chief for Ricky Rudd, was fined $250 for punching driver Ted Musgrave at Martinsville, Va. Ingle did some damage, too, actually drawing blood.

"I was kidding around with NASCAR (officials) about that and I said, `You mean for $1,000 I could hit four people?' " Schrader said. "Their response was the next time someone gets hit, there will be several more zeroes."

Waltrip apologized. "What I did was wrong," he said. "That's a lot of money, but I don't feel like arguing about it."

Waltrip says he thinks Speed was wrong and "that's the bad part of it. He could have hurt me. …

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