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Hood: Living Rooms Are Full Of Potential Snitches

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 16 2011

Might NASCAR rules enforcement agents Robin Pemberton, John Darby and Mike Helton start getting Tweets from fans during races? (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

A professional golfer is disqualified from a tournament after a TV viewer notices a rules violation and tips off the PGA.

Could a similar scenario play out during a NASCAR event?

Camilo Villegas received a jolt on his 29th birthday a week ago in Hawaii after learning he had been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. He was told that someone watching the tournament at home alerted rules officials he had violated Rule 23-1 of the Rules of Golf which says: “When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.”

Villegas was chipping to the 15th green when the ball rolled back toward him. He walked over and brushed away some loose pieces of grass in front of the divot as the ball was still moving down the slope.

Weekend hackers across the world have, no doubt, unknowingly committed this golfing sin a time or two and never given it a second thought.

But to students of the game of golf, such as Dave Andrews, a penalty of this nature going unpunished would be like NASCAR failing to black flag a driver who improves his position in the running order after freely driving below the yellow line at Talladega.

Andrews is the person who happened to notice Villegas’ infraction while watching the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Golf Channel.

The Associated Press originally reported that a viewer “called in” the rules violation.

While this isn’t the first time a pro golfer has been disqualified over an infraction discovered by

NASCAR officials can't catch everything that goes on during a race. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

a spectator, it turns out the PGA doesn’t actually have a telephone hotline for viewers to call.

Andrews attempted to contact the PGA by sending two messages on Twitter – one to the network and the other to the tour. He also attempted to contact the PGA tour through their website.

He finally contacted a friend in the media who was able to relay the message to PGA Tour media official John Bush. PGA officials reviewed video footage that same day and promptly booted Villegas from the tournament.

Let’s say an eagle-eye NASCAR fan watching on television or sitting in the grandstand while listening to a scanner realizes a competitor is breaking a rule. NASCAR apparently hasn’t noticed because the black flag isn’t being displayed. There is no mention of a potential rules issue by the television and radio commentators.

With spotters stationed around the track and a bank of television monitors at their disposal, you’d think it’d be impossible for the NASCAR brain trust of Mike Helton, David Hoots, Robin Pemberton and John Darby to miss anything while calling the shots from the control tower overlooking the race track.

But consider these odd scenarios which could be overlooked:

– A driver becomes tired of wearing his gloves during the event. He slips them off and stuffs them underneath his seat. Ironically, he happens to be carrying an in-car camera which shows him gripping the steering wheel. This camera angle has hit the airwaves a zillion times for the past 30 years. Who actually noticed that the driver is committing an equipment violation by not wearing his gloves?

– A fan standing on top of a motorcoach near the end of the backstretch at Talladega

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is held by an official after being caught for a violation on pit road in last year's Daytona 500. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

happensto be listening when a driver tells his team: “Hang on guys, here comes that caution we need.” The fan looks up and sees the driver toss something shiny onto the track. Because the driver has lost the draft, there is no video evidence. And the toss occurs in an area of the track where there are no grandstands. So if the NASCAR spotter literally blinks, the guilty party might never be known.

– The passenger side window flies out of the car while the race is under green. The window actually flies over the catchfence and into an unoccupied area outside of the track. Much like the item above, there is no video footage and NASCAR’s spotter failed to see the clear-coated window sail through the air. A fan in attendance is relatively sure he saw something come off the car. His suspicion is validated when he hears the driver hint to the team that there is suddenly an aero issue with the car.

– The red flag is out and the field is stopped in Turn 3. A viewer at home is certain that he caught a quick glimpse of someone wearing a helmet tugging on the fender of a car sitting back around 15th-place. Much like Sterling Marlin learned during the 2002 Daytona 500, it is a no-no for a driver to work on his car while the race is red flagged.

Though NASCAR isn’t ready just yet to release Helton’s cell phone number to the general public, much like the PGA Tour there are methods of relaying information to NASCAR during an event.

Imagine the day when a NASCAR driver is busted over a rule violation thanks to an observant fan.

Stay tuned. It could happen.

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 16 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • midasmicah says:

    Some idiots have nothing better then to sit on their couch and play God. Obviously this person has no life. I miss the old nas$car when “stretching the rules” was common place. If this happens in a race it would be a joke. In regard to the person who snitched on that golfer. Someone needs to take him behind the woodshed and give him the works.

  • Jim B says:

    I was listening to my scanner at Phoenix during a Winston West Series race in the late 90’s when I heard Rich Woodland’s crew chief advise him that he was faster than the leaders, but the front of the car won’t pass post-race inspection. A few laps later, Woodland came up behind a lapped car and gave it a good enough rap that damaged his front end just enough to cover the fact that it was illegal…and went on to win the race.