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Associated Press
From left, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano crash in Turn 4 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday in Avondale, Ariz.

Jeff Gordon: Punishment fail

So this is what they mean by "time off for good behavior."

Apparently four NASCAR Sprint Cup titles and 20 years as one of the sport's most saleable commodities (a not inconsiderable factor, no doubt), wins you mega brownie points with Mike Helton and the boys. How else to explain why Jeff Gordon draws what amounts to a love tap for deliberately wrecking Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano in Phoenix?

A hundred thousand is couch-cushion money for Gordon, and the 25 points he gets docked are meaningless considering he's already 10th in the points with one race to run. Not like he was going to jump up five or six spots with or without those points.

And probation only means "Don't do it again," which of course isn't going to happen, anyway. So where's the penalty phase here for Gordon?

If it's there, I can't see it. And so what message is NASCAR really sending here?

I'll tell you what message: That sponsor dollars rule this sport more than ever in an era when every sponsor dollar is more desperately needed than ever.

Listen, if NASCAR really wanted to send a message here, they'd have done what they should have done, which is sit Gordon down this week. I've been a Gordon guy for a long time, but what he did Sunday was egregiously stupid and reckless. I don't blame Bowyer's crew for tracking down the little goober and pounding on him.

Not only did he wreck Bowyer, after all, he wrecked Logano, too, who was an innocent bystander. No matter how contrite he is about it, this kind of behavior can't stand in a sport that courts death as ardently as auto racing. And you know one of the main guys who'll tell you that?

Jeff Gordon.

That's why NASCAR needed to make an example of him. Because the people who talk the best game about safety have to be the people you hold most accountable when they don't practice what they preach.

Ben Smith's blog.