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Woody: The Poor Get Poorer And The Rich Get Warned

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 7 2009
Driver Mark Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson look over their Sprint Cup car at Kansas. Was it barely legal again?  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Driver Mark Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson look over their Sprint Cup car at Kansas. Was it barely legal again? (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

I still don’t understand exactly what went down last week when NASCAR warned a couple of championship contenders that they were about to step out of bounds.

But I’ve got a sneaking suspicion.

I think what we saw was yet another case of NASCAR looking out for the rich & famous – the same NASCAR that earlier this year hammered the poor & unknown.

Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson got a “warning” from inspectors that their cars were ‘close to failing inspection.”

I wasn’t aware that NASCAR had an early-warning system. I thought a car was either legal or illegal. I didn’t realize there was a third category, “barely legal.”

“There was no room to breathe,” said Sprint Cup director John Darby about the odd doings. “Both cars passed inspection or we would be having a whole new conversation.”

If the cars were legal, who cares if there was “breathing room?” That’s what mechanics are supposed to do – push the envelope right to the edge. If they go over the edge, then NASCAR is supposed to nail them.

As I read the story I wondered if Carl Long got a similar “warning.” Remember Carl Long? The NASCAR nobody who was given a veritable career death sentence for having an old clunker that narrowly flunked inspection at a non-points race in Charlotte.

Carl Long didn’t get a friendly warning from kindly inspectors. He got nailed.

NASCAR obviously wanted to make darn sure that Martin and Johnson, 1-2 in the standings, didn’t get caught with illegal cars. That would have put officials in an awkward position.

Having penalized Long and parked him for several races – zero tolerance, they said – they couldn’t allow Martin and Johnson to simply skate. NASCAR would have been forced to do SOMETHING.

Yet even the slightest penalty for the two frontrunners would drastically affect the standings and throw the air-tight championship chase into turmoil.

And so NASCAR decided it was better to issue a warning now than to be forced to write a ticket later.

I’m sure Mark and Jimmie are grateful. At the same time, I’ll bet Carl Long wonders what happened to HIS warning.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 7 2009


  • OLDMAN724 says:


  • larry woody says:

    MiK, you make a good point, but can you explain why it was necessary to issue a statement announcing that the two cars were legal?
    Isn’t that like calling a press conference to announce that two planes that weren’t in trouble landed safely?

  • Ryan Adam says:

    Hendrick have to 2 Mantra in their Shop
    1.Screw The Rules!!! I Have Money!!!!!
    2.If Your not cheating, Then your not Winning

  • MiK Watson says:

    You are missing a fine line here. The #5 & #48 were NOT deemed out of spec. No matter how much hand-wringing you do, no matter how much Roush grouses, no matter how close they got, They were in spec. thusly, no penalty.

    Carl Long, on the other hand, WAS out of spec. and not just .17 cubic inches either! A whopping 8.17 cubic inches, totaling approximately 25 extra HP. THAT’s what he was fined for. The rules state that 350cid is the max displacement, with NASCAR allowing 8cid more for tolerance. The engine was over…no question.

    And very much a different case than Hendricks’ boys.

    By-the-by, NASCAR should have went after the engine builders for Carl. Getting thrown off the track for a week woulda insured they built them in spec, for sure.

    • Kiltie says:

      I totally agree with this comment. Some people are just never satisfied and have to keep up all the conspiracy theories.

      The cars were “LEGAL”. End of story! Please find something else to write about.


    • kentuckynascar1 says:

      NASCAR rules states that the maximum displacement is 358 ci, not 350 ci. So, Carl Long was out by 0.17 ci.

  • owlafaye says:

    NASCAR fiddles with everything far too much.

    They are going to legislate themselves into an also-ran situation as far as major broadcast sports go.

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