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NASCAR Should Have Issued Penalty To NASCAR

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 11 2013

Did NASCAR officials bring the Richmond debacle on themselves? (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Who’s to blame for the biggest debacle/scandal/travesty (take your pick) in NASCAR history?

NASCAR, that’s who.

For years it turned a blind eye toward blatant points tampering by teammates, and it finally got bit where it hurts worst – in its credibility.

Now it’s stuck with a tainted championship Chase. No matter who wins, it’ll be a tarnished trophy.

Heading into the playoffs, the sport is branded with scarlet letters: FAKE!

The shameful Michael Waltrip Racing shenanigans that made a mockery of the finish at Richmond last Saturday night and cast a dark cloud over the entire sport didn’t start with Clint Bowyer’s faux spin and Brian Vickers’ contrived pit stop. It had been building over time, as teammates openly engaged in point-fixing.

One of the more brazen examples occurred in a race a few years ago when Jimmie Johnson was leading, and deliberately slowed to let Hendrick Racing teammate Mark Martin pass and lead a lap and gain a bonus point.

Granted, it was only one point. But what if that one point had got Martin in the Chase and knocked someone else out?

Whether it’s one point or 100 points, it was unfair and unethical. Being ethical is like being pregnant – either you are or you aren’t.

NASCAR let unethical points tampering slide, and it led to Saturday night’s Richmond fiasco.

I agree with Rick Hendrick who said driver Jeff Gordon was “robbed” by being knocked out of the Chase by the Michael Waltrip Racing chicanery. Jeff was collateral damage, and as a consequence the sport’s winningest active driver is denied a shot at the title.

However, this is the same Rick Hendrick who allowed Jimmie Johnson to engage in similar chicanery by giving teammate Mark Martin a free pass and an undeserved point in the standings.

That wasn’t the organization’s first ethical side-step. Jeff Purvis told me Hendrick fielded a car for him one year at Atlanta, with orders to park it after the race started. Gordon needed to finish a certain position or higher to clinch the championship, and Purvis’ drop-out guaranteed Jeff one spot higher in the finish. What’s the difference in a fake drop-out and a fake spin?

As it turned out, Gordon didn’t need the “insurance” spot to win the title that season, but that didn’t make the scheme any less unethical. Just because you don’t spend the money doesn’t mean it’s OK to rob a bank.

I’m not picking on Rick Hendrick – I’m sure other owners have done similar things – but he’s in no position to cast stones over points-tampering. Gordon getting bumped out of this year’s Chase might be NAS-CARMA.

In other sports, fixing points to affect the outcome of an event will get someone arrested. In NASCAR, points tampering by teammates has always been met with a wink and a grin.

Well, you can bet that NASCAR’s not winking and grinning now, as it finds itself mired in the biggest scandal in its history.

NASCAR has long been mocked by many as pro wrestling on wheels. Some of us who defended the sport warned what could happen if it let such shenanigans as the Johnson/Martin points exchange slide.

Now it’s happened. NASCAR’s integrity has been rocked to the roots and I’m not sure when, if ever, it will recover.

I don’t blame Michael Waltrip Racing personnel, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers or any of the others implicated in the Richmond fix as much as I blame NASCAR.

It knew the can was open, it failed to close it, and eventually the worms crawled out.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 11 2013
17 Comments

17 Comments »

  • Bill says:

    I used to live and die nascar but now I am so disappointed in nascar I don’t care any more. It started when Hendrick took over,nascar smacked down every other driver for being too much like a real race driver and the big thing nascar ever increasing greed for more and more money till it kills the sport. RIP Nascar

  • NASCAR No Credibility says:

    I am disappointed in Waltrip for not fighting this as NASCAR has admitted they do not any evidence that this was in fact intentional. That is right from NASCAR.

    Face the FACTS NASCAR is and has been a total joke for may years.

  • NASCAR No Credibility says:

    Don’t forget that Richard Childress qualified extra cars twice to have them drop out on the first lap so Earnhardt could also win the championship two different years.

    I hope if Gordon is in position to win the championship Bowyer puts his rear end in the wall.

    Hendrick has gotten away with more cheating the past 20 years then any other owner in the history of NASCAR.

  • Terrell Davis says:

    Woody has nailed it once again. The blame for this debacle sits squarely on NASCAR’s shoulders. Over the years we’ve seen phantom debris cautions, rules interrupted differently depending on which teams were involved and we have seen teams try, and in many cases succeed, to manipulate race outcomes with shenanigans that didn’t particularly involve fast cars or good pit strategy. So now a team has been so blatant that they have been penalized. And only because a red faced NASCAR was put in the position that something had to be done to try and salvage their credibility. Sorry but NASCAR’s credibility was lost a long time ago. Now let’s wait and see how the gang from Daytona handle the latest fine mess that they have gotten themselves into.

  • Jim (sprint car fan) says:

    You never hear about these issues in sprint car racing, or other so-called lesser forms of racing. No mirrors in cars, no spotters, no planned pit stops, no two-way radios. The only team orders are “try not to wreck your teammate”.

    I’m not surprised by all these Sprint Cup problems, just disappointed. I’m glad football is here. I’ll be paying significantly less attention to NASCAR in the future, and football will fill my weekends now. NASCAR is turning into a joke. Some may say they already were.

  • TROY says:

    Thanks for this point of view… I truely is the way nascar has been for a long time. I cant help of thinking back to Jeff Gordon taking out Clint Bowyer in the chase last year and how he changed the Chase. How Ironic that now he whining about how this has effected him and other people. What about Bowyers fans last year? and last how come the Hendrick team was even in that position? They have more resourses than any other team being worth over twice as much as the nearest team out there?

    • jj says:

      BS Troy. Jeff Gordon had a definite and distinct reason for putting the profane and vulgar Bowyer into the wall. It was just payback time for the idiot running into him 3 times during the race. Get a clue.

      • NASCAR No Credibility says:

        Gordon should have been suspended for no less then 20 races after that coward attack on a driver in position to win a championship. Gordon even admitted he did it on purpose so Bowyer would not win the championship.

        To bad slick Rick Hendrick faked cancer to stay out of prison as he should have been bubbas boy friend behind bars.

        Hendrick has ruined NASCAR along with Brian France and Mike Helton.

  • Brian says:

    …and do not forget all the times certain drivers are falling a lap down or are a lap but first one and one of those mysterious debris cautions appear.
    NASCAR has been manipulating races for years with cautions for barely scraping the wall, spin outs when the driver gets going again in short order, padding or other not threating pieces of debris when “found” or debris so far out of the racing groove or off the surface an driver would already be in trouble before hitting but OMG throw the caution for “safety”. Oh the 24, 48,88, 14 5, 18, 20, are in position to benefit what a coincidence. NOT!!

  • Victor Johnson says:

    Great article. My feelings exactly. NASCAR is the problem. Was losing interest since the lucky dog & phantom debri cautions. Now Im through. Support your local tracks where real racing occurs.

  • Ben F says:

    As a Chief Compliance Officer for a large government contractor and a NASCAR fan, this is my two cents. Richmond is proving to be NASCAR’s Enron. Today there is too much at stake to trust drivers and teams to operate within the confines of what is ethically correct. While NASCAR’s rule book is huge, from what I understand, I don’t believe they have a Code of Ethics or have published values which participants must adhere to. Perhaps it is time for NASCAR to follow the lead of business and other organizations who aspire to operate at a high ethical level. If they had a Code of Ethics and Business Conduct (or maybe a Code of Ethics and Racing Conduct) they would certainly have something to wave in the face of those who are diminishing the integrity of the sport.

  • sal says:

    Too bad Nascar didn’t take advantage of their team ‘limits’ on the number of cars and limit owners to 2 cars, and no ’satellite’ teams. That hasn’t helped the situation. Then it was made even worse with the stupid not-a-playoff ‘chase’ scenario. When a team knows it’s going to be virtually invisible for the final 10 races of the season unless it’s one of the chose few, can you blame them for trying everything possible to make the top 12? This is a monster Nascar created and now they have to live with the results.

  • Josie says:

    Ha. Well through all this I wonder…will this be the most watched Chase NASCAR has had in a long time? I for one am anxious to see who will be the first to take a “whoops” shot at Bowyer..and will it be a recurring theme each race? AND what if Bowyer keeps climbing in the points and positions himself to possibly win The Chase…will he make it to the finish line at Homestead? It’s all sad and hilarious at the same time! I love all forms of racing. This season my NASCAR guy is sitting on his scooter on the sidelines…so what was going to be a dismal Chase for me has turned into a circus…and I do love clowns!!

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you for a honest and true statement about the state of Nascar. I blame Nascar 100%. I do not blame MWR, they in the big picture if they truly tanked (Nascar did not charge them) just ruled their ADTSCR bull. Thank you for calling Hendrick out, who I am sure is the biggest person vested in digging up dirt on the rest of the field to justify getting Jeff into the Chase (a position based on this years lackluster performance). …Well today what do you know…radio chatter between the 22 team and another Ford team were “discovered”. The news media has now interpeted and convicted via the court of public opinion talk from the Gilliand team. Come on…..what the heck. If that team slowed up for the 22, you better go back decades and fine every other team who has done it. More importantly please produce the section in the super secret rule book that expressly says no to this action. This is the unintended consequences dropping the hammer on MWR the way they did base on mob mentality. Shameful, and these men are professionals? And speaking of professionals (sarcasm) you have Jeff, his wife and his boss working the social media telling all how robbed they were, dang this is just an stupid mess. I am sure Nascar will cave allow Jeff with his brand new party dress to the fun. Sadly. I say all drivers and teams (except HMS and satellite offices of course) STRIKE! Say we want all bases covered, so we are not branded as cheats so you can sit back and cause a controvery to boost your bottom line!

  • Rita Jean says:

    Thank you, Larry Woody, for flipping the coin on the mess.
    The fan base spewing scorn at ONE driver (Bowyer) is pointless.
    When all this went down, I was confused at first. I really didn’t think anything of it. Most fans are used to the “phantom” caution that re-starts a race. LOL
    Then, all the media pieces asking for heads of Waltrip and Bowyer got completely out of hand. It’s sickening!

    Also for HMS: Didn’t we hear on audio that Johnson was supposed to crash the rear of the car on the burn-out if he won? What if that was a deciding factor in a Chase race?? Same thing.

  • Michael in SoCal says:

    Definitely agree with you here. And speaking of HMS, I heard over the past few days that the 5 & the 88 were told that if the 24 was coming up behind them to let him pass. Similar to the MWR situation, though not as blatant.

    • Carole says:

      All that being said, Nascar still made a big mistake this time by not lowering big enough penalties to ALL involved regardless of “team orders.” Clint Bowyer was as much involved in this manipulation as anyone and should have been removed from the Chase as he is now in a position for the Championship and the reason for what happened was to put Truex in the Chase and what happened? Truex is out!!! So, what was the point?