Woody: NASCAR Decisions Prove Puzzling
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
I’ve been writing about cars running in circles for 40 years and in that entire span I’ve never come across two more puzzling stories than the back-to-back mysteries of recent weeks.
One is Jeremy Mayfield’s ongoing drug case. The other is Carl Long’s record-breaking penalties for a trivial infraction.
Last week he took his case to court try to get his NASCAR suspension overthrown. He swears he’s innocent of violating NASCAR’s substance-abuse policy. NASCAR is equally adamant that the veteran driver is guilty of using “a dangerous, illegal, banned” substance.
I attended a media function last week and a member of the press told me confidentially that he “knows for certain” what drug Mayfield was using. He named a vile, illegal street drug.
Earlier I saw an internet story in which another “insider” claimed he knew for sure what the drug was. He named something equally vile, but entirely different.
Mayfield insists the substance is an over-the-counter allergy medicine.
That’s what the Mayfield mess has come to.
I don’t see how NASCAR or any governing body can make a public accusation about someone’s illegal drug use, suspend them and in effect destroy their career, and yet refuse to present the evidence.
Mayfield says that’s all he asks; produce the proof.
If he’s bluffing – if he’s guilty and NASCAR has the evidence it claims it has – NASCAR can quickly put an end to it.
I can’t understand why NASCAR is holding back. Right now both NASCAR and Mayfield are getting smeared and tarnished.
NASCAR has been charged by Mayfield and his attorney with a reckless, reprehensible act – perhaps even a crime – and for some reason it refuses to come forth with the evidence that would absolve it.
The other story is even more mind-boggling: What on earth was NASCAR thinking when it suspended Carl Long and his crew chief for 12 races, in addition to issuing a $200,000 fine, points penalties and assorted other punishments?
They are the harshest penalties in the sport’s history, and for what? For having a slightly-oversized motor in last month’s qualifying event prior to the all-star race.
It’s not as though Long was caught with a jet engine after winning the Daytona 500. It was a minor infraction – a worn out old motor that blew after three measly laps in a meaningless exhibition event. Big deal: Fine him $50 bucks, put him on probation, and tell him not to do it again.
Long was kicked out, fined and docked points for an infraction that didn’t occur in a points race. What’s next? Taking away points for running a stop sign on the way to the track?
One website genius opined that Long “deserved the time for the crime.” What a dunderhead. Wonder how he’d feel if the next time he jay-walks he gets beaten to a pulp with billie clubs, fined $200,000 and sent to the gulag for 12 years?
That’s what NASCAR did to Carl Long for spitting on the sidewalk.
It’s the greatest miscarriage of garage justice in automotive history.
If there’s more to it – if there’s something going on with Long or his team that we don’t know about – then NASCAR has an obligation to reveal it.
If there’s not – if it really destroyed Long’s racing career for such a trivial transgression – then it should be ashamed.
Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby: “One thing’s sure and nothing surer – the rich get richer and the poor get children.” In the case of NASCAR, change “children” to “shafted.”
I believe Carl Long is a dead crow that NASCAR hung in its cornfield to scare away other crows. Crows with names like Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs and Childress.
NASCAR wants to make sure it never has to suspend one of its superstars for cheating. In the past it has let them skate, and I’m sure they’ll continue to skate merrily into the future.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe NASCAR knows more than it’s telling us in both the case of Mayfield and Long. If so, it needs to come out with it because public skepticism is rampant.
For 40 years I’ve defended NASCAR when critics howled and cynics bayed. I thought it was tough and obstinate, but fair. I have long-time friends who serve in the upper echelons of the sport and they’re good people.
Sometimes I disagreed with NASCAR’s policies and positions but I never questioned its integrity. Now, based on how it’s handled Mayfield and Long, I’m beginning to waver.
I hope NASCAR will step up and prove me wrong.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org