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Woody: Passing Should Always Be Between Non-Consenting Adults

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 3 2009
Does Mark Martin have five more points today than he should? (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Does Mark Martin have five more points today than he should? (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer 

It’s one for NASCAR’s Lowlights Film:

At one point during last Sunday’s race at Dover, leader Jimmie Johnson deliberately slowed down and allowed teammate Mark Martin to pass him.

Martin led the lap, “earning” five bonus points.

Then Johnson zipped back around him, reassumed the lead, and sped off to victory.

A charity pass for charity points. How shameful.

And don’t give me excuses about how it’s always been done in the past – teammates helping teammates improve their position, get back on the lead lap, collect bonus points.

It was shameful then and it’s shameful now.

What’s the harm, you say? The harm is to NASCAR’s image as a legitimate pro sport.

What Johnson and Martin did was nothing short of rigging the point standings. Johnson gave Martin five points he didn’t earn and didn’t deserve.

Granted, they rigged the standings by only five points – Martin is in 12th place with 1,567 points – but that’s five more points that he should have.

A rig is a rig, just like fixing a football or basketball game is a fix. The number points involved in the fix is irrelevant.

Five points must be fairly important, otherwise why embarrass a proud old veteran like Martin by giving them to him?

Thirteen races remain to set the 12-driver field for the championship Chase. Let’s say that Martin comes out of the 26th and deciding race leading current 13th-place driver David Reutimann by four points.

Think those five charity points Martin was given Sunday would loom large? They would be the difference him making the Chase and Reutimann getting bumped out.

Let’s take it even further: suppose Johnson should take a nose-dive in the next 13 races – unlikely but possible – and he ended up on that number 12-13 Chase bubble.

And let’s imagine that Martin beat Johnson out for the 12th and final spot – by four points! Forget Johnson’s bid for a record fourth championship.

Talk about poetic justice – if Johnson knocked himself out of the Chase by giving another driver five championship points.

I realize such a scenario is unlikely, but it could happen. And even if doesn’t, giving a teammate points is a sham. Some might argue about how big a sham it is but can’t deny that it’s a sham.

Back before the advent of the Lucky Dog Award, when lapped drivers had to beat the leader back to the line under caution get their lap back, some drivers whined if the leader didn’t slow down and give them a free pass.

I always thought that was absurd. By allowing a rival to get back on the lead lap the leader gave new life to a potential threat for the victory. Every driver he could keep a lap down was one less driver he had to worry about toward the end.

Deliberately giving an opponent a lap back was disgraceful; deliberately giving an opponent championship points – teammate or no teammate – is equally unseemly.

After 13 more races, when the Chase field is set, just remember that Mark Martin will be credited with five more points than he earned.

It may not make any difference. Probably won’t. But if somebody – including big-hearted teammate Jimmie Johnson – should be bumped out of the Chase by Mark’s five-point edge, just remember what went down last Sunday at Dover:

That’s the day the standings were rigged. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 3 2009


  • Charles Jackson says:

    Larry exhanging the lead just for the bonus points between teamates etc is the politics of racing that hurts Nascar!

    I think what needs to be done to promote better racing on race day though, is start “paying points” to lead laps!

    Let each lap count one point, total up and give the “winner a bonus”

    But have a system to get points to finish, but the make the whole race about about passing for the lead!

    Currenty there is no incentive to “lead laps”, this usualy turns a race to a chess match until the very end! So with all the high tech teams now they usually wait until the really one lap to lead is at the end, not the middle of the race!

    Races when they exchange the lead is better for the fans and makes them what to go again, keep the interest level up! Just because the winner may not get as many points as the leader to me doesnt matter, just look and see how many drivers that have won the points titile or chase have won the most races!

    This system will put a “rabbit in front’ of the drivers to chase for at the race instead of NEW YORK!

  • Red says:

    In my opinion, what Jimmie and Mark did was not nearly as disgraceful as the practice of staying out an extra lap under caution and “earning” the bonus points that way. At least with the teammate deal, the drivers have to be running 1-2. But when the 35th place car steals bonus points under caution, that is truly shameful.

    Besides, with all the horrible luck Mark has had this year, can you really begrudge him 5 measly points?

  • slander q. libel says:

    Don’t worry–when Michael Waltrip’s leading a race later in the year, he can slow down to let Reutimann lead a lap just to even things out…

  • dawg says:

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. If they are going to award PBs for leading the race. They should allow 1 point for leading green flag laps, up to a max. of 5. This reminds me of when they raced back to the flag. If a Roush car was leading when the yellow came out, & a team mate was a lap down. The leader would damn near stop on the track, until they caught up. People wonder what happened to all the single car teams.