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TV cameras catch Lancaster breaking up fight
By ANNA BROWN
As supervisor for template inspection with NASCAR, Michael Lancaster's job duties are varied.
On March 12 after the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas, referee came into the mix. Driver Kyle Busch, angry over an incident where his car and Joey Logano's collided on the final lap, came after Logano. On live TV, Lancaster is seen pulling Busch, his face bloodied, out of the fight and leading him away. He can be heard saying, “Kyle, calm down.”
“It's happened before, but never on that big of a platform,” Lancaster said. “They have a competitive edge - these drivers really have a big competitive spirit and sometimes their emotions get the best of them. Wayne (Auton, NASCAR Xfinity Series director) has always told us when one driver is approaching another after an incident like that always be sure they are just going to talk to settle their differences. When it escalates that is when we are supposed to step in and try to diffuse the situation. From what I saw Sunday, it escalated and escalated quickly. I just did what I did to diffuse the situation and remove one of the parties involved.”
Lancaster said he has not spoken with Busch personally since the incident.
“His PR guy did see me afterwards and did express his thanks to me for removing Kyle from that situation,” Lancaster said.
In the footage that has gone viral, Lancaster appears to pick up Busch with ease.
“Have you looked at me? I'm a pretty good size boy,” Lancaster said with a laugh. “I guess adrenaline had taken over. I saw a situation that needed to be diffused and I did what I had to do.”
Lancaster used a firm demeanor with Busch, much like a father talking to a son.
“We know the drivers,” he said. “We speak to them. We are cordial to everybody. You see them on a weekly basis. As far as knowing people, we know more the crew chiefs, car chiefs and teams more than the drivers, but the drivers know who we are and we know who they are. To go back to another cliché statement, it is like a big family. We all are going to take care of each other. What it all comes down to is if something goes bad, we are going to take care of each other.”
Lancaster was on pit road and saw Busch walking toward Logano.
“I figured they would get into a shouting match,” he said. “I had no idea they would get into a shoving match or a fight. When I saw Kyle lunge at Joey, it took me a few seconds to get up there. I guess the thought was, 'Is this really happening in front of me?'”
Lancaster said 15 minutes after the incident, friends and family began “blowing up” his phone, Facebook and Twitter.
“I didn't see the footage until I was on the airplane getting ready to come home,” he said. “I really didn't know what it looked like or what the situation was. I knew there were TV cameras everywhere but I just did what I had to do to diffuse the situation and get the parties separated.”
Lancaster said he appreciated the calls and comments.
“All the well-wishes and comments were positive,” he said. “But I'm not in it for the glory. I had no intentions of trying to get on TV or anything of that nature.”
Lancaster has been working with NASCAR for nearly 22 years.
In the summer of 1995 Lancaster was working with Union resident Scott Willard and Star Com Radios at the Greenville/Pickens Speedway during a Goody's Dash Series race. Someone approached him and said an official was needed to work the stop and go position.
“I said, 'Give me some instructions on what I need to do,'” Lancaster said. “From then on I was working basically part time for NASCAR.”
Later, NASCAR restructured and sold the Goody's Dash Series. Employees were given the opportunity to go with the series or continue to work with NASCAR. The majority stayed to work with Auton and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, now called the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Lancaster went to work for NASCAR in the truck series full time four years ago. A year later after restructuring he began working for all three national series - NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He said he enjoys working them all.
As supervisor for template inspection, Lancaster's job duties include working pit road, working the garage and working the spotters stand.
“It all depends on the situation and the assignment,” he said.
In Las Vegas, he was assigned to the garage. Duties include making sure teams are following repair rules.
“Now with the damaged vehicle policy we have in place, if they return to the garage and a vehicle has been involved in an accident on the race track or has made contact and they come to the garage they can no longer make repairs to the body,” he said. “The only thing they can come to the garage and repair would be a mechanical issue. We have to make sure they are repairing a mechanical issue and not a body damage issue.”
Being away from home is the most difficult part of his job, Lancaster said. He and his wife, the former Beth Walker, have been married since 1991 and have one son, Grayson. Lancaster is fire chief for the Southside Fire District and has been a firefighter since a week after he and Beth married.
Lancaster gets six weekends off a year. This year he is scheduled to work 31 events. Beth and Grayson sometimes attend races close to home, including the July race in Daytona last year.
Some racing fans might think Lancaster has a dream job.
“It's not all glory all the time; it's a tough deal being gone from home. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do to provide for your family.”
(Posted March 20, 2017)