NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson has been penalized 30 points and fined $ 35,000 for purposely crashing Sage Karam and causing a massive crash during Saturday’s race at Road America.
Karam and Gragson were racing for position through Turn 1 on lap 26 of the 48-lap race and made contact. Gragson was unhappy with the hard racing and made an intentional right turn into Karam’s car as they were on a straightaway.
The move caused both drivers to spin, but Gragson escaped with minimal damage. Karam’s car hit the wall and a wild 13-car wreck ensued as drivers kept running into each other on the blocked track in the middle of a giant dust cloud. You can see the wreck in full in the video above.
Gragson, 23, drives for JR Motorsports. JRM co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Wednesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he “couldn’t defend” what Gragson did to Karam and that he was shocked to see what unfolded on the track.
“And I told him that I could stand behind him through just about anything, but I couldn’t defend that,” Junior said on the radio. “And that’s a difficult thing for me. That’s a difficult position for me. ”
Earnhardt Jr., an NBC analyst, sometimes calls Xfinity Series races for the network but was not a part of Saturday’s Xfinity broadcast for NBC Sports.
NASCAR’s move to penalize Gragson for the crash is a rare one. NASCAR has tended to be very lenient when policing retaliatory wrecks in recent years after it parked and suspended Matt Kenseth for his crash of Joey Logano during the 2015 playoffs. Gragson’s penalty came under a NASCAR rule that covers “intentionally wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from competition as a result.”
NASCAR also said that Gragson was penalized days after the race instead of during the race because it wanted to confirm that his actions on the track were intentional even though it seemed very obvious at the time what Gragson had done. He drove away without incident from his spin and went on to finish eighth. The 30-point penalty does mean, however, that Gragson ends up with fewer points from the race (6) than he would have scored if NASCAR parked him after the crash (13) and he finished ahead of everyone else in the wreck.
Gragson’s run-in with Karam is not the first on-track incident that he’s had with competitors in his time in the Xfinity Series. Gragson infamously backed into Daniel Hemric’s car a season ago at Atlanta after NASCAR head-scratchingly said that Gragson “didn’t deliberately” do it. The incident on pit road led to a brief scuffle between the two drivers after that race.
Gragson remains in fourth place in the Xfinity Series standings after the penalty and is now 69 points out of the lead.