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Woody: Freebie Leaves Kahne Missing The Point

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 30 2009
For Kasey Kahne, one point could be huge.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

For Kasey Kahne, one point could be huge. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Remember those five bonus points Jimmie Johnson gave teammate Mark Martin by letting him lead a lap at Dover back on May 31?

Remember how I said it was shameful?

Remember how I said hurt the integrity of the sport?

Remember how some readers said it was no big deal?

Well, try telling Kasey Kahne and his fans it’s no big deal.

This morning Kahne is sitting 13th in the standings, one spot out of the championship Chase.

He trails Mark Martin by four points.

How big a deal are those five freebies now?

Martin is 11th in the standings with 2052 points.

Juan Montoya is 12th with 2049.

Kahne is 13th with 2048.

Deduct the five charity points Johnson gave Martin and Kahne would be in and Martin would be out.

Montoya would move up to 11th, Kahne would be 12th, and Martin would be 13th.

Seems a pretty big deal to me.

There are nine races to go before the Chase field is set, and by then five points may not matter. The top 12 may pull away and put distance between the 13th place driver and the rest of the championship spectators.

But even if that happens – even if those five points don’t decide who’s in and who’s out – the principle remains the same. There’s no place in a legitimate sport for such shenanigans.

In other sports its called point fixing.

Here’s what happened that day at Dover: Johnson was leading when he deliberately slowed down and allowed second-place Martin to go by and collect five bonus points for leading a lap. Johnson then sped up, resumed the lead, and went on to win.

I realize that it’s not the first time it’s happened. I realize that drivers used to give a lapped teammate and sometimes even others a free pass. I understand all that, and it’s still no excuse.

It was shameful then and it’s shameful now.

Deliberately helping an opponent goes against every tenant of sports. I always hoped that when a leader let another driver get back on the lead lap that that driver, given new life, would rally and win.

The same goes for giving a rival bonus points he didn’t earn. What if Martin should knock Johnson out of the Chase by four points?

Granted, that probably won’t happen this year – Johnson’s safely in 3rd place – but they might knock someone else out. Who knows – it could be Johnson’s other teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. who’s scrambling to squeeze in.

Since there’s no way for NASCAR to force a driver not to give away points, there’s only one solution: stop awarding bonus points for leading a lap. They’ve become a travesty, with drivers getting points for staying out under caution, or having them handed to them by a teammate.

How’s it going to look if, some season, those unearned points decide the championship?

Johnson’s Dover giveaway made a joke of such “bonus points.” Ask Kasey Kahne – currently out of the Chase because of the Dover sham. See if he’s laughing. 

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 30 2009