Emotions often run wild in the heat of competition, and that was the case Saturday night at Idaho’s Stateline Speedway. On lap 133 of the Northwest Super Late Model Series 150-lap race an incident took place involving Nicole Behar, Braeden Havens and both of their crews. The incident resulted in a 30-minute red flag, physical confrontations between teams and the appearance of local police.
The fireworks began when Behar, Havens and Blake Williams were racing for position within the top five. Behar and Williams made contact resulting in Behar spinning. Havens was collected as well.
“We went caution and on the backstretch (Havens) decided with his damage that I couldn’t finish better than him,” Behar told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We were going to park on the backstretch. He throttled up on the backstretch and hit me so hard that I got turned around and backed it into the fence and wrecked the whole rear clip off the thing.”
Naturally, Havens’ take on the incident is a bit different than Behar’s.
“My hood was flopping all over the place because of the wreck, and they hadn’t thrown the yellow yet,” said Havens. “I didn’t want to lose a lap so I took off again. Right about the time I start to take off, she’s coming down and suddenly she’s there. Then she went back around and everything really broke loose from there. The yellow wasn’t out yet so I had to go. They said I was grabbing gears. Of course I was grabbing gears. The yellow wasn’t out and the leader was coming. You don’t just sit there and wait for the leader to lap you to get a yellow.”
After that incident on the track took place, an altercation ensued in the spotter’s stand and in the pit area. Once again, both drivers’ takes on the matter are a bit different.
“There was an incident in the spotter’s stand. No big deal. There were no punches thrown or anything,” Behar said.
“The thing that got me was I’m listening to my dad spot from the spotter’s stand, and this is before she got turned around the second time, and my dad was already being choked by Mike Behar,” said Havens. “And I heard this on the radio which was really disturbing. Before the yellow was even thrown Mike Behar had started choking my dad. After that all hell broke loose. Her pit crew rushed the spotter’s stand to get at my dad, which is in my book a no-no. If they want to come handle it with me, I’m the one that has the steering wheel in my hands. Not my pit crew. Don’t start wailing on my pit crew, especially my dad and my sister. That was totally uncalled for. It just shows how they are.”
As a result of the alleged incident, Behar’s car owners (her parents), Mike and Sherrie Behar, were fined $500 each by Stateline Speedway and the Northwest Super Late Model Series, and Behar has been suspended for the remainder of the year by the series and the race track. No crew member of Behar’s team will be granted entry to Stateline Speedway or any NWSLMS event for the remainder of the year as well. According to the NWSMLS rulebook, the driver is held responsible for the actions of any team members.
“Any penalty of that magnitude has come after a tremendous amount of thought, and certainly didn’t come without a series of events leading up to it,” said Doug Pace, the director of the Northwest Super Late Model Series. “In the case of the 33, just since September she’s been black-flagged for driving offensive multiple times. After the Apple Cup at Yakima she was warned that her actions off the track will not be tolerated by the series. Then here we are at race number four and there’s an incident on the track. They were fighting in the spotter’s stand and the pits to the point that the race was red-flagged. There were five officials getting overrun by a mob and we had to call the police.”
Behar said that she didn’t agree with the penalty at all and was also confused by the apparent lack of a penalty for Havens who was parked for the remainder of the event for his role and his team’s role in the altercation.
“If you’re going to fine or penalize a team then both needed to be penalized,” said Behar. “They’re making it one sided and that’s not what it was. If there was no incident on the track, then nothing else would have happened. It all started there.”
“We’re just following the rulebook and the rulebook states that the driver is responsible for the actions of her race team and crew,” said Pace. “It’s not a good reflection on her, or her race team, and now the series is getting bashed because we are doing something to avoid this from happening again.”
Behar said that the penalty doesn’t affect her racing plans all that much. She will be making her ARCA Racing Series debut this weekend at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway for Venturini Motorsports and racing her Super Late Model there as well.
“It doesn’t really affect me whether we run the series or not,” she said. “We’re going to race no matter what. I have bigger and better things ahead of me. It’s all positive going into this race.”
Havens said he knows that he and Behar will eventually race each other again, even if it isn’t in 2016. He said he’ll make it a point to not make any contact with her to avoid any potential future conflict, so that his family members don’t get brought into any more altercations.
“That’s the only thing I care about. I don’t care about the race. I don’t care about her being suspended. I don’t care about anything like that,” explained Havens. “The only thing I cared about was me hearing my dad get choked over the radio and my sister getting punched in the face for standing there as Sherri Behar is getting dragged by my car because she’s trying to rip my helmet off my head through the window.”
UPDATE: The Northwest Super Late Model Series issued additional penalties on Thursday night. Braeden Havens has been fined $400 and placed on probation through the rest of the 2016 season.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo