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Crafton avoids suspension for Talladega post-race fight with Sanchez

Matt Crafton Matt Crafton - The Canadian Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR on Tuesday fined Matt Crafton $25,000 for punching fellow driver Nick Sanchez following the Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Sanchez was fined $5,000 and his father, Rene, was suspended for the remaining two races of the Truck Series season for getting involved. Rene Sanchez was fined for throwing a punch during the melee.

Sanchez believed the three-time Truck Series champion broke his nose when Crafton “sucker punched” him post-race Saturday in the Talladega garage. A video of the altercation begins when Sanchez was already bloodied and on the ground, where he was restrained from retaliating by a team member.

Crafton was only seen briefly in the video and appeared to be in street clothes, not his driver uniform.

NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials considered suspending Crafton because “Matt had had some time to think about the situation. It wasn’t like both drivers got out on pit road, heat of the battle, they go down and have a discussion with each other.”

They ultimately decided on the fine.

Sawyer said Sanchez was fined because of “some of the comments that were made by Nick.” Sanchez could be heard in the video shouting toward Crafton: "“I’m going to (expletive) kill you at Homestead! You (expletive) with the wrong guy!”

“We totally understand that’s in the heat of the battle, understanding the situation, but we just can’t have those type of comments. That’s why he received the fine that he received,” Sawyer said.

In a lengthy social media post Sunday, Crafton said Sanchez threatened him when he confronted him in the garage.

“First, let’s address the “sucker punch.” 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,” Crafton wrote over six posts on X, formerly Twitter.

“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,” Crafton continued. “There may not be video, but there were plenty of eye witnesses.”

He also maintained that it was Sanchez who “'sucker punched' me at 200 mph." Crafton added Sanchez was racing dangerously pushing other trucks and had been told "multiple times during that race the way he was pushing people was going to cause a wreck and 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.”

Crafton and Sanchez were involved in a crash during the race and Crafton drove his truck to Sanchez's pit stall to initially show his displeasure.

Crafton is winless this season, has already been eliminated from the playoffs and is 10th in the standings.

Sanchez, also winless on the season, is fourth in the standings and still in the Truck Series playoff field. He said in a statement on social media Tuesday he accepts the punishment.

“Anything that doesn't pertain to bettering myself as a race car driver or winning doesn't deserve my energy or focus and never will,” Sanchez added. “I look forward to continuing my quest for the championship in Miami.”


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