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Is that Buckshot or Cheapshot?

28 August 1997

Think back to when you were younger (assuming that you're older of course) and the new kid showed up in school- or perhaps you were the new kid yourself.

Sometimes the new kid - a little smaller than the rest of the kids- would go pick a fight with the biggest kid on the play ground. You know, to show the rest of the kids he isn't afraid of 'nuttin'. The results might vary slightly (the new kid might get in a lucky shot) but a trip to the principal's office was the end result.

Enter one Roy "Buckshot" Jones - driver of the #00 Busch Grand National entry.

Buckshot, a little slicker than the rest and financed as well (or better) as any on the circuit, found himself in the principal's office this week after he used his 3300-pound car as a weapon against fellow competitor Randy LaJoie.

This isn't the first time in the '97 season that Jones has found himself called to the carpet. Nope. This is the third time and NASCAR dealt a sharp blow to the 26-year old West Palm Beach, Fla. native.

Before we get to this particular incident let's look back at Buckshot's other digressions this year.

The scene of Buckshot's first problem this year was Talladega Superspeedway. Buckshot and reigning Busch Series champion, Randy LaJoie, tangled in the tri-oval on the fastest track on the circuit. The resulting accident, that took out a handful of cars, was deemed by Jones to be LaJoie's fault. It was on the cool-down lap that Jones would settle the score with LaJoie when Jones drove his car into LaJoie's ride. LaJoie, who had removed his helmet and belts during the cool-down lap, slid across the track and hit another car that had nothing to do with the original incident. Tempers flared and NASCAR got involved. When all was said and done, NASCAR slapped a $2,000 fine on Jones for the move.

Fast forward to Indianapolis Raceway Park. It was late in the race when Jones and Dale Shaw, driver of the #4 entry, got together. This time Jones and his crew dealt their form of justice on pit road. NASCAR officials had to step in to break up the brawl between the teams. After some discussion NASCAR handed out $500.00 fines to Jones and Shaw as well as Jones' crew members Ricky and Eddie Pearson.

The next place Jones would show us all who was boss was Bristol Motor Speedway--a track known for bringing the worst out in people.

Jones, who was having a respectable run up front, was 'swapping paint' with the best of 'em all night long. From our vantage point down in turn one you could see Jones nudging folks trying to loosen them up for the pass -- a tactic popular on the bullrings the Busch series runs. Before the night was over Jones would have spun out Mike McLaughlin and knocked Chris Diamond into the wall. Then, when wrestling with Randy LaJoie for position, Jones found himself backed into the wall out of contention.

Jones started his trip back to pit road for repairs.. or that was the appearance. But as Jones was driving to the pits you could see that he was looking in the rear view mirror watching for something. Then all of a sudden you knew what it was he was looking for -- the #74 ride of LaJoie. As LaJoie passed by, Jones mashed the gas and took a hard right trying to knock LaJoie into the wall. The move was a complete failure as LaJoie dodged the attack and Jones drove head-on into the wall destroying the other end of his car.

Two-way radio traffic clearly indicated that his crew wasn't too happy with the move. And NASCAR officials, having had enough of Jones that night, parked the #00.

Jones would have several meetings that night -- the most important was when he and NASCAR officials would sit and watch the videotape of the incident together in the 'White House' (the Winston Cup mobile office).

You could clearly see the concern on Jones' face as he exited the last meeting of the night. It was then that Jones shared his position. Jones' contention was that he was intentionally knocked into the wall by LaJoie and that he needed to teach LaJoie a lesson.

Lajoie's position was - 'hey, that's racing at Bristol.'

A number of competitors stopped by to congratulate LaJoie... and it wasn't for his 4th place finish.

Jones left Bristol with a torn up race car and a huge question regarding his future. And there was reason to be concerned.

When NASCAR officials were asked what is the worst thing that could happen the answer was, "It's up to our discretion. But we have WIDE latitude in matters such as these."

Jones would have to sit it out for three days before NASCAR handed out its rather lenient decision -- A $5,000 fine, a 50 point deduction of Busch series points (this moved Jones from 5th to 6th in the series standings) and to make sure he doesn't slip again, a probation period that runs through the end of the calendar year. The penalty, should Jones chose to be the judge and jury again, is an automatic two-race suspension.

The team's position regarding this matter is unavailable as Buckshot is off doing TV spots for ESPN. A team PR member indicated that an appeal regarding the points was pending.

Let's hope, for both Jones' and the sport's sake, that a lesson was learned. The penalty, though less than I would have doled out (I'd of parked him for 2 weeks), might be enough to teach Buckshot that there is no room for vigilantes on or off the track.

Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel