By Jerry Jordan, Editor
Veteran Craftsman Truck Series driver, Matt Crafton, has been fined $25,000 for his role in leaving 22-year-old up-and-comer, Nick Sanchez, with a busted face following an altercation at Talladega Superspeedway, this past weekend.
Nick was fined $5,000 for his involvement and his father, Rene Sanchez, was suspended through the series championship race at Phoenix Raceway for his role in the incident, as well.
The penalties fell under, “Sections 4.3 A & 4.4 D: NASCAR Member Conduct & NASCAR Member Code of Conduct” in the NASCAR Rulebook. It appears to be the first time in several years that NASCAR has taken action against drivers for fighting each other at the race track.
Sanchez was responsible for wrecking Crafton during the race and was accused of repeatedly driving aggressively. It was reported that Crafton waited to confront Sanchez as he walked to his team’s hauler and the two exchanged words.
Crafton was accused of throwing a “sucker punch” and hitting Sanchez without warning but Crafton posted on social media that wasn’t the case, although he confirmed punching Sanchez in the face.
“First, let’s address the ‘sucker punch,’” Crafton wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Before the cameras started rolling I approached Nick and said “hey” when he turned around I said “what the —?!” to which he looked right at me and threatened me. That is when it all went to hell. I had his attention, words were exchanged, all before anything physical took place, so I did not “sucker punch” the guy. There may not be video, but there were plenty of eye witnesses. What people don’t take into account is that he all but “sucker punched” me at 200 mph. The way he pushed my truck gave me no ability to get out of the situation and he was told multiple times during that race the way he was pushing people was going to cause a wreck and going …to get people hurt. There is a consistent pattern of certain drivers having a lack of respect on the track, and it was time for someone to say something.
“Am I proud that it got physical, no, but last time I checked everyone on that track is a grown adult. If a man looks at me and threatens me, I am going to react. Especially when tempers are already flared from being wrecked on the track.”
Crafton apologized to his team, sponsors and fans for his behavior in a continuation of the post.
As for Sanchez, he posted on social media following the penalty announcement by NASCAR, that he accepted his part of the punishment and conceded it was an unfortunate situation.
“At this time I will accept NASCAR’s penalty issues after the post-race occurrence at Talladega,” he wrote. “It is a very unfortunate situation that negatively impacted a lot of individuals and the sport we all are so very passionate about and privileged to participate in each day.
“As for the incident, anything that doesn’t pertain to bettering myself as a race car driver or winning doesn’t have my energy or focus and never will. I look forward to continuing my quest for the Championship in Miami.”
Meanwhile, Sanchez’s father, Rene Sanchez was suspended by NASCAR for the remainder of the 2023 season. Elton Sawyer, Senior Vice President of Competition for NASCAR explained on SiriusXM NASCAR’s ‘The Morning Drive’ “that when crew members or in this case family members (or others) get involved, and throw punches, NASCAR steps in (to suspend them like they would crew members).”
Sawyer also stated that NASCAR would meet with both drivers ahead of the next Truck race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.