To those of us armchair NASCAR team owners, the decision seems simple: If your driver gets arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, you must suspend him.
But the actual choice is often more complicated, which results in drivers usually getting off with little punishment – at least when it comes to NASCAR.
That's why RAB Racing team owner Robby Benton's decision to indefinitely suspend driver John Wes Townley for DUI on Friday was a significant statement – and why it shouldn't go unappreciated.
Driving drunk is always wrong, but it's especially unacceptable when the person who committed the offense drives race cars for a living.
Millions of fans look to NASCAR drivers for the proper way to conduct themselves on the road, and if NASCAR and the race teams don't take a DUI charge seriously by issuing a severe penalty, it sends the message that drunk driving is somehow not that bad.
Fortunately, Benton stepped up and took appropriate action after Townley – his team's Camping World Truck Series driver – was slapped with his second alcohol-related offense in two years.
"Obviously, this is an unfortunate situation," Benton said in making the suspension announcement. "However, we have to react to the severity of the incident accordingly. His actions do not reflect those of RAB Racing, nor the sponsors associated with the team."
Benton said the team will "stand by John Wes" and will welcome him back at the "appropriate time" – which Benton said will come after Townley has taken steps to correct his actions.
And you know what? That's exactly what Benton needed to say. He sent a message that drunk driving is unacceptable, but also didn't bury a 22-year-old kid by closing the door on a possible return.
It's also a response that seems all too rare in NASCAR.
Previous drunk driving incidents – such as the one that involved Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett last year – have practically been brushed aside.
Despite a strict substance abuse policy, NASCAR has not stepped in and suspended a driver for DUI. From Annett to AJ Allmendinger to Scott Wimmer, drivers have been allowed to keep racing despite a drunk driving charge.
Therefore, the onus falls on the team owners to make a statement – and most of them have taken the easy way out. Annett's car owner Rusty Wallace, for example, said last year that removing his driver from a race would hurt the entire team because it would be a severe points hit.
He does have a point. By suspending Townley, Benton has taken away his Camping World Truck Series team's chances at a championship before the season even starts.
But you know what? It's the right call, even if it's a difficult one.
Benton has taken a stand against drunk driving, and the message he's sending is worth far more than a few points.