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November 5, 2011

Mike Helton

MIKE HELTON: During the truck race last night, we had an incident between the 18 and the 33 trucks that resulted in NASCAR parking the 18 truck for the balance of the event.
That's done under Section 912 of the Rule Book. That gives NASCAR the authority to react during a race weekend. Following the event and after a good deal of conversation and discussion, NASCAR has decided to maintain that parked position on the driver of the 18 truck for the balance of the weekend.
So basically what that means is Kyle Busch will not be participating today or tomorrow in the NASCAR event here in Texas.
THE MODERATOR: We have time for just a few questions.

Q. Mike, can you tell me what time the meeting was held this morning, where it was held, who attended it?
MIKE HELTON: The meeting was held at our hauler 15 minutes ago, 20 minutes ago. J.D., Coach Gibbs, and Kyle Busch were in attendance along with several NASCAR officials.

Q. In the year of 'boys have at it,' what were the specific reasons behind your decision to park Kyle as opposed to just letting 'boys have at it'?
MIKE HELTON: The responsibility over the past two or three seasons we've given back to the drivers came I think with a very clear understanding that there could be a line that got crossed.
As annoying as the comments that I've made personally in the past about 'we'll know it when we see it' might have been, we saw it last night. Obviously after the event, a lot of folks put their heads together to decide what, if anything, we would do. Then what I'm telling you today is our reaction.

Q. Mike, you guys in the past have let things that happen in one series stay in that series. It didn't cross over. Not to say you haven't ever done it. What was the reasoning behind doing what you did this weekend, letting it affect Nationwide or Cup?
MIKE HELTON: I think we've had occurrences - rare like you said - in the past where an incident would carry over for the balance of the event. Kevin Harvick in Martinsville from a truck race that involved the Cup race. Robby Gordon in a Montréal Nationwide race that involved a Pocono Cup race. Although be it very rare, we have had incidents that have carried over for the balance of the weekend like this one has. But they're rare.

Q. How, in your mind, serious is this situation for NASCAR to take this move? What kind of conversations did you have with Kyle, with Joe Gibbs Racing, their sponsor implications? How grave is this, in your mind, that you've gone to this level?
MIKE HELTON: Well, I think the volume of occurrences or reactions like I'm talking about this morning, the rarity of those times that we'd make a step like this speak to the uniqueness and the severity of the topic.
We understand the ramifications or the ripple effect of us making this type of a move. But we also take our responsibility very serious as to maintaining control of the event in all the garages. So it's a balance there that we ultimately have to make a decision.
At the end of the day, we're the ones that have to make that decision and go on.

Q. Will there be any other possible penalties to Kyle, say monetary, probation, anything else besides what's going on for this weekend?
MIKE HELTON: Under 912 it's just an event reaction. We'll have to wait and see what Monday morning brings. But right now this deals with the balance of this weekend.

Q. Do you feel like this will send a message on the whole 'have at it' situation, that there is a point where we're going to take severe action and maybe this will calm things down a little bit?
MIKE HELTON: I don't know. I think the garage areas, the drivers, the team owners, the crew members understand the difference between being responsible and crossing the line. I honestly believe that they understand the difference.
But we'll have to wait and see how the opinions react to this.

Q. Mike, I saw Richard Childress in the hauler this morning, as well. Did the Childress-Harvick camp also get admonished not to escalate this feud? Secondly, did the fact that what Kyle did last night have an effect on the championship, did that influence the decision today as well?
MIKE HELTON: To the first part, our reaction was specifically around the driver of the 18 truck, and that was the extent of it. Obviously, when an occurrence occurs at a racetrack, the NASCAR official community in general works to minimize the ripple effect of what actually might have happened, what might could happen afterwards during the event last night or any one going forward, for that matter.
The implication of the 33 truck being in the points battle in the Camping World Truck Series probably had a small impact on the reaction. But I think the bulk of the action in its entirety, all the circumstances attached to it just accumulated to lead us to the decision we made.

Q. Mike, I know you say 'when you see it, you'll know it.' Can you give a better clarification? Some fans will look back at the Carl Edwards-Keselowski thing and say there wasn't anything there done. What more did you see in this case with this situation? What was so different? And the accumulation of things that Kyle had been involved with this season, did that play a factor to park him?
MIKE HELTON: Yeah, I would answer that two ways.
It's natural in our industry and our sport, for NASCAR's regulatory responsibilities, to watch the evolution of a policy or procedure and learn from it and possibly react differently. Although I would remind you in the incident with Carl Edwards and Keselowski in Atlanta, there was a reaction for us. There was points and money involved in that reaction, so there was some sort of reaction.
There's been a lot of other occurrences that we felt like were more in opportunity to responsibility given to drivers along the way, but there are lines that have been crossed. The 18 and 29 in Darlington got a reaction from us. Today is the most severe reaction under these circumstances. But we felt like all the circumstances came together to warrant the reaction that we're talking about this morning.
The question about the accumulation of incidents around the driver leading to this decision-making process. I won't sit here and tell you that it's not an influence, but it's not an overriding influence. The reaction we're talking about today came more specifically from the set of circumstances that unfolded last night in the single event.

Q. Most of the time I assume you refrain from suspending people because you know the fans come to watch drivers, Kyle Busch being a very popular driver to some fans. How much did you weigh that in your consideration and what did you feel is the overriding factor in suspending him?
MIKE HELTON: Yeah, I would sit here and tell you that any violation that we have to react to, we consider the ripple effect of our reaction. Every incident that we have to react to, whether it's in an inspection, something that's happened on the racetrack or what have you, that's not our mission. But it is our responsibility as a regulatory group that manages the sport. We certainly take that very serious.
So the circumstances that we saw last night on the racetrack, we didn't take lightly what we saw, we didn't take lightly the necessity or the responsibility for us to react to it. We take those responsibilities very serious.
But more often than not, our responsibility is to officiate the sport, inspect the hardware that's involved in the sport in a manner that everybody feels like they're on an equal and level playing field. That's the sport's regulatory responsibility.
On occasion you have an incident to take the responsibility, to take the additional step like we're talking about this morning, and it's not an easy step to take. It's not something we enjoy doing. It's not an action that we would want to do. But we do take our responsibility to maintain control of the garage areas and the unfolding of the events very seriously which led us to this action.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, thank you very much.

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