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Woody: Justice Not Served in Long Case

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 23 2009
Carl Long's driving career may be over in NASCAR. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Carl Long's driving career may be over in NASCAR. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com
 

There used to be a joke in college football: Every time Oklahoma got caught cheating the NCAA would put Western Kentucky on probation.

The point being: The NCAA would throw the book at a nobody while letting a big-time (and cash cow) program slide.

Methinks I smell a similar odor wafting from the NASCAR principal’s office.

Last week NASCAR meted out some of the harshest penalties in the sport’s history – and also some of the most absurd.

It hammered Carl Long for having an illegal engine in the Sprint Showdown. Long was suspended for the next 12 Sprint Cup races.

His crew chief Charles Swing was fined $200,000, the biggest fine in NASCAR history.

When I read the story I kept looking for the punch line. OK, I’ll bite – what’s the joke?

Apparently NASCAR’s not kidding, although the penalty is most certainly a joke.

First of all, the “illegal engine” was used in a meaningless special event, not even a points race. The mighty motor lasted all of three laps before it blew, and Long won a grand total of $5,000.

Who does NASCAR think its kidding? Carl Long couldn’t win a race with two illegal engines.

Long also was docked 200 owner points – another record, another travesty. The infraction – minor as it was — didn’t occur in a points race, so why the points penalty?

Long is a journeyman driver trying to hang on by his fingernails. NASCAR just clipped his nails. Long’s career is probably over.

And a $200,000 fine for his crew chief? Incredible.

Look, I like NASCAR. I’ve always felt that in general it does a good job of policing the sport. I have long-time friends who help run the organization.

Having said that, this Carl Long deal is a total miscarriage of garage justice. NASCAR gave the guy the death penalty for jay-waking on a deserted street.

I’ve held off on writing this to try to figure out some rationale for what NASCAR did, and I can’t. It hammed a nobody while in the past allowing its big-name stars a relative free pass.

Richard Petty was once caught with an over-sized engine – after winning a race. Petty was fined (not nearly as severely as Long’s crew chief) but he wasn’t suspended. NASCAR even allowed him to keep the win!

And what about Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief and a repeat offender who – when not on repeated probation for cheating – guided Johnson to three straight championships? Knaus got a wrist slap, Johnson and Hendrick got three championships.

The superstars get rich and the nobodys get ripped.

I’ve covered racing for 40 years and throughout that time I’ve steadfastly defended NASCAR from critics who claim it plays favorites. I’d always thought – and written – that every driver received equal treatment regardless of whether his name is Petty, Gordon, Earnhardt or, well, Long.

It pains me to admit I’ve changed my mind. I think NASCAR hammed Carl Long because he’s an expendable driver who is being used to send a message: don’t get caught cheating.

If Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team had been caught with that same engine in the all-star event, I don’t believe Junior would have been kicked out of the next 12 races.

A record fine and a record points penalty for a no-name outfit that couldn’t last four laps in a sideshow race. Way to go NASCAR – you’ve really cleaned up the sport.

I’m anxious to see if NASCAR is equally tough the next time a team owned by somebody named Gibbs or Hendrick is caught cheating.

I think we all know the answer to that: if you’re a star driver or owner you don’t have to worry if you get caught.

NASCAR will simply hang another nobody and allow its cheating superstars to race merrily along. 

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 23 2009
9 Comments

9 Comments »

  • amy anderson says:

    “It pains me to admit I’ve changed my mind. I think NASCAR hammed Carl Long because he’s an expendable driver who is being used to send a message: don’t get caught cheating.”

    The action is another hypocritical stance by the Big Bubbas, who mouth platitudes about being a family sport, everyone loves everyone, we’re all family, blah, blah, puke. The truth is that NASCAR is the same as any other overblown, overextended corporation-they love themselves and those in their income bracket and the others can go….

    After this action, I lost what little respect I had left for them.

    Oh, and don’t you mean ‘hammered’?

  • Robert Eastman says:

    Kicking the little guy when he is down, that’s what COWARDS and BULLIES do! Gee, I wonder why more and more ex-fans hate ASSCAR?

  • claus thormaehlen says:

    Larry: Nice to have found you on this website. I miss your coverage that used to be in the Tennessean. I think your assessment was spot on. As I understand it, the tolerance issue that get him trouble was driven by a racing effort short of funds that had to rely upon used engines which in this case resulted in an overbore. At the end of the day, I think nascar has finally begun to devour itself. The strategic planning is in the hands of bean counters and people who do not really understand the culture that made it successful in years past. I have gone back to where I first started and that is my local dirt track. They will have to trudge forward without me.

  • Tom says:

    Nascar will destroy itself from within if it continues with this insanity.There’s only about six viable race teams as there is. Does Nascar really want be the sport that eliminates opportunity for the little guy?

    • Rick Anthony says:

      I don’t know what Carl Long did to Nascar but this sounds like “Nascar Payback.” Why is Nascar running teams out of business when they are losing teams due to the economy?

  • Joe Furino says:

    NASCAR may just be following their rules here. Wait a minute…what are their rules? Have you ever tried to read the NASCAR rule book? Can anyone actually find the NASCAR rule book? Are their any rules that cannot be changed instantly to meet any situation at hand?

    How can anyone criticize an organization as secretive as NASCAR? You really cannot say they have changed anything, because you have no way of knowing what the old way was. Maybe they made up some (and just as secret as ever)new rules just for Carl Long, and now they are following their rules. If they decide to reduce the penalties, they can do so by changing the rules again; they never have to admit they are wrong…after all…they are just following the rules

  • Lou says:

    Nascar has lost its collective mind. They must lurk waiting for how they can screw up what little credibility they have for the perfect opportunity.

    I think they must be power mad and totally corrupt.

  • Alice Albers says:

    Absolutely aimed at a nobody. What NASCAR knows good and well, is,
    no one with the big teams runs USED engines. Given the history of Carl’s engine (used from Ganassi, then used in ARCA testing, then
    overheated and blown by Carl) it is inconcievable that it would’nt have cylinder wear issues, therefore measuring a few thousanths large. That same senario won’t happen to the big money boys. NASCAR KNOWS THAT! Anyone that understands these engines, knows it’s most liekly this engine was EXACTLY to spec when new…now it’s well over a year old, abused to death.

    NASCAR officials know this. Whatever the reason, this penalty was
    aimed at Carl Long…and I believe something is going on, we don’t
    know about.