Rain Cancels Qualifying, Heats Up Controversies
(Editor’s Note: Saturday’s Sprint Cup qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway has been canceled by rain.)
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. cited a playing field that’s “way too level” as the catalyst for numerous incidents last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway that spilled over into a racing ethics discussion at Martinsville Speedway on Friday.
On a day that saw a chilly rain wash out practice for Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, the top 12 drivers in the championship Chase voiced their opinions on topics ranging from drafting partners to crew chief instructions to the lengths they would go to win a championship.
Throughout stock car racing’s history there have been two dominant philosophies: If it’s not in the rule book, it’s not illegal and you’re not cheating unless you get caught.
“As long as humans are involved in things, there will be a certain level of corruption and people trying to bend the rules and do things differently or better or smarter,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Everybody’s got their own ideas on what works and what doesn’t work. We’re working with race cars with thousands of variables and we’ll always try to make those variables better than the next guy, even if it doesn’t clearly state in the rule book that this is the way you need to do it. We’ll try to do it however we want to interpret that.
“Creativity brings on technology, better technology, smarter technology, safer cars, and you need to
have some parameters free to allow engineers and ingenuity and creative people in this sport. You know, there’s a lot of rules that sort of shut out guys that made this sport. Things are pretty damn level with all the rules and restrictions as we get further and further down the road. It’s way too level. When everybody’s got everything the same, you’ve got to find those one or two or three little things that add up that sets you apart; that puts you in the top 1 percent. Everybody is getting desperate because you know you want to run good.”
Brad Keselowski noted that everyone in the sport has his or her own code of honor.
“It’s certainly something I place very, very high; that’s why I’m driving for Roger Penske,” Keselowski said. “I think you can look at things like that and you see who a driver picks to drive for and you can kind of get a mindset. Roger, I think, is at the top of the list in my opinion. There have been times where I’ve had conversations with Roger and asked him why certain things are not done on the car and he’s told me point blank, ‘Hey, this is something that is a little gray and I don’t live in the gray area. It’s not how I run my race tams. It’s not how I’m going to run my race teams. And if I lose races because I’m not in the gray area, I’ll accept that so that I don’t have to answer for the races that I’ve won and been yelled at, or discredited, or had the asterisk put next to me for some sort of violation.’ I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.”
Crew chief Chad Knaus vaulted into the spotlight this week for his pre-race instructions to Jimmie
Johnson to make sure there was damage to his car’s rear if he won the Talladega race. Knaus’ remarks to Johnson were caught on the No. 48’s in-car camera which was live on NASCAR.com’s RaceBuddy application. NASCAR officials met with Knaus and Johnson Friday morning at Martinsville regarding the conversation. NASCAR then released a statement in which it was noted the No. 48 car would be a regular at NASCAR’s R&D center for the season’s remainder.
“The thing to remember is that car passed inspection multiple times throughout the course of the weekend,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post-race, he made a foolish statement. You can tell from my reaction it was something I had never heard in the car from him before, and it is what it is.”
Johnson said once he learned the pre-race conversation would become public he never worried about his reputation or what people would think.
“Everybody in this garage area knows what this team has done to win these five championships,” Johnson said. “Our car, with the success we’ve had over the years, has been through the (NASCAR) R&D center far more than any other race car. When we’ve been out of line, we’ve been put in place. We’ve overcome a lot over the years. The success of this race team is due to a lot of hard work and this has no bearing on it.”
Still, Kevin Harvick said he was “all for doing whatever you have to do to win the championship.”
“Sometimes you have to do what you have to do and what you think is right as a team, so some people may not agree,” Harvick said, “but at this point it is really all about trying to win the race and trying to win a championship. However you think you need to go about that differs between teams, but you have to do what you have to do.”
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