NASCAR Should Have Issued Penalty To 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Comments