There’s an ugly stereotype of NASCAR drivers, crew members, officials and fans that is less than savory. You know the one: the fat, slothful, beer swilling, inbred troglodyte who likes his women barefoot and pregnant. To be sure, other sports have their issues as well, but other governing bodies have not worked as hard as NASCAR has to change that perception.
The arrest of former NASCAR truck series and current Cup driver Travis Kvapil for assault on a female and false imprisonment couldn’t come at a worse time on several levels. Between Spingate, sponsorship pullouts, TV contract upheaval, team skullduggery, drivers not playing nice, and lingering fan unrest, it has been a veritable summer of discontent for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. In the “you can’t make this up department:” this is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and guess whose team is involved in supporting that awarness? You guessed it- none other than Kvapil’s team, BK Racing.
If you’ve come within a country mile of this issue, then you know how heinous it is, and its profound effect on a family, especially should there be children involved. The arrest occurred Tuesday night at Kvapil’s Mooresville, North Carolina home, where he lives with his wife Jennifer and their three children. It’s a complicated matter, particularly at this point, where the facts of the case are not public knowledge, short of the arrest itself, and its location. If indeed the charges hold up, then there’s a strong likelihood that this kind of thing has been going for some time now, and it is just now surfacing. Questions coming to mind include what if the Janesville, Wisconsin native has been falsely accused? What if Mrs. Kvapil elects not to press charges against her husband? What does NASCAR and Kvapil’s team do while the matter is pending?
No one has been convicted of anything, and yet this is still a public relations nightmare. BK Racing has already pulled a Twitter photo of a decal promoting Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Neither the governing body nor the team are commenting further at this moment. No one wants to be the one to rush to judgment, but neither does anyone even want to remotely appear as though they are employing the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” approach either. Not only is Kvapil- virtually unknown outside of NASCAR circles- a pariah for the moment, it sends the worst kind of message to the world outside of racing if anyone in any way appears to be an enabler or one wishing to sweep the matter under the rug. Does the team park Kvapil Saturday while this matter works itself out? To what degree does NASCAR play the “conduct detrimental to stock car racing” card?
Further complicating affairs is the reputation of Kvapil himself. Outside of, perhaps, a minor dust up with another driver (and none readily come to mind) on the track, the 37-year old hardly has the street cred of a NASCAR “Bad Boy.” I can name you (but I won’t) any number of drivers of whom we would say “that’s no surprise” if such an accusation were leveled against them, but Travis Kvapil is not on that list.
It’s probably fair to say the reaction has been one of shock and disbelief for many within NASCAR, while no small amount of the public outside NASCAR is thinking “that’s a redneck for ya.” One does not want to be blind to domestic violence, yet neither does one want to play judge and jury in a system where there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, all while time marches on as the matter plays out.
This is all ugly for everyone involved. For those in any way affiliated with the driver, one can’t do nothing, but what do you do now? There are no winners, and you can only hope the truth- whatever it may be- fully comes to light. Today, the Kvapil family awakens to a much different world than they did two days ago, NASCAR and BK Racing find themselves in an embarrassing position, and Kvapil himself is now a much better known figure in a way he doesn’t want. Compared to this, any other issue confronting NASCAR to this moment is mere child’s play.