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Woody: NASCAR Decisions Prove Puzzling

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 12 2009
Carl Long received no mercy from NASCAR.

Carl Long received no mercy from NASCAR.

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.

First, Mayfield:

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 lwoody@racintoday.com


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 12 2009


  • Richard in N.C. says:

    Publicly disclosing what Mayfield took benefits no one except the media. Mayfield knows what he took and he knows what the drug testing lab (Aegis) says he took. If NASCAR and Aegis are correct, and if the reports of what Mayfield tested positive for are right, and if the identity of that drug is released to the public, who does that help? No one but the media – so they can write about it. Public disclosure won’t help NASCAR and it surely won’t help Mayfield. If published reports are correct and such is confirmed publicly, the media will have a story and Mayfield will be exposed to criminal charges – which I suspect many in the media would find to be a fair trade.

  • Doobie says:

    This is nothing new for NASCAR; it’s just more noticeable because the two most recent incidents occurred within the same relative time frame.

    For example, in October 1992 at Charlotte, Bobby Hillin’s Team Ireland car owner, Martin Birrane, was fined for an “illegal engine part.” The engine was built by an outside vendor, so Birrane and Hillin probably weren’t aware of the violation. As a result of that incident, Birrane closed down his team.

    Then in July 1993, a NASCAR inspection at Daytona revealed holes drilled in the carburetor and intake manifold on Ken Schrader’s Hendrick Motorsports entry, to bypass the restrictor plate. His B&R engine was built in a shop owned by Rick Hendrick. Yet Schrader and his car owner, Joe Hendrick (Rick’s father) basically got away with it (a four-race suspension was reduced to a $5000 fine for each).

    Remember Michael Waltrip’s fuel-tampering violations at Daytona at the start of the 2007 season? Again, he basically received a slap on the wrist (100-point penalty). Here’s an ironic quote from that incident (from autoracingsport.com):

    “We feel it is in the best interest of the sport, and the competitors in the garage, that we move on,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. “It was an illegal substance, and it would serve no purpose to [clarify] what that substance was.”

    (…ironic because this policy apparently applies to both cars and drivers, as we now know.)

    So…does anyone see a pattern here?
    (With horrible officiating like this, perhaps Brian France and Mike Helton should be drug tested!)

  • Steve says:

    I can believe the morons at NASCAR screwed up the original call on Long. Nothing they do surprises me. But the appeal group I formerly had a little faith in. Looks like they have now drunk the NASCAR Kool-Aid and can’t be counted on to show a lick of common sense. I had people tell me that Buddy Baker and other fine people comprised the appeals board so they must be okay. I think if Buddy thinks this was a good call then he is as dumb as a box of rocks.

  • SteveCos says:

    Good point about it being a non points race. Two other points to ponder. NASCAR gave him the option to go pack up and go home and there would not have been a suspension. Plus I understand the engine was oversize (very small amount), but it was also underpowered by what 20%? So where is the advantage? There was none. Think about this for a moment. If Carl knew his engine was illegal and was given the option to stay and have it looked at or go home and we’ll see you next week why in the world would he have stayed at the track? Exactly!

  • midasmicah says:

    In regards to nas$car’s treatment of Mayfield and Long and the fact that they aren’t members of elite teams, I have this to say. This is one of he big reasons for the big dis-connect between nas$car and their former hardcore fans. The downward spiral in attendnce and tv ratings are symptoms of this problem. And don’t look for it to stop any time soon. No one, and I mean no one on the big teams will be treated in the manner of Mayfield and Long. That’s what it’s come to. Sad, but true.

  • Bobby dee says:

    I tend to agree with the article, however JM knows the policy so why take any chances? Ask the doctor in advance. You know that seems so simple to me.

  • SallyB says:

    Don’t hold your breath.