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Pedley: The C-Word Slows Down Racing

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 9 2009
Tony Pedregon is up in arms over what happened in one of the Funny Car semifinals at the U.S. Nationals. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Tony Pedregon is up in arms over what happened in one of the Funny Car semifinals at the U.S. Nationals. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Let’s see what’s in the Wednesday Morning Memo today:

* Did too, did not

I tend to continue right on with what I’m doing when I hear one person involved in professional sports accuse another of cheating. Why interrupt a perfectly good day dream just because one pro calls out another for unfairly manipulating a play or an outcome or a race, you know?

Let those among us, you know?

So, as I watched the Funny Car competition from the NHRA’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals on Monday, and I saw John Force and Tony Pedregon engage in high-volume, up-close dialectic, and heard the word “cheat” used with such self-righteous indignation, amusement set in.

The fact is this: The Olympic motto of “Citius, Altius, Fortius” has been replaced in modern athletic endeavor by “Just win, baby”.

And motorsports, it has its own little spinoff of that motto: “If you’re not cheatin’, you’re not tryin’ “.

And, brother, do race teams ever try.

Being successful in racing has all of the incentives that go with being successful in other sports. You know; pride, awards and all that other stuff. And all that serves as impetus to do everything from frame pitches in baseball to sticking a finger in an opponent’s eye after a tackle in football.

But racing success is desirable for its own reasons. Money. Money enough to keep cars on tracks and keep sponsors in on board. Gaining a “competitive advantage” in racing is the difference between competing and folding.

So, most teams cheat at worst, and explore the gray areas of the rule book at best. Those that are not exploring, are not racing for long.

In racing, teams have two sets of competitors – other teams and series officials.

In NASCAR, it’s scores of officials. In the pits, in the garages and at the multi-million dollar research and development facility in Concord, N.C.

You think NASCAR would spend all that money if only one or two teams were attempting to skirt rules? Me neither.

The results of it all are laid out on long tables next to the NASCAR hauler in the garage areas at race tracks. On those tables, for all teams to see, are illegal parts and pieces confiscated during inspections.

Few teams have not had one of their parts or pieces make the table of cheating over the years.

For Pedregon to jump up and down and point at Force and call him a cheater, well, yawn.

Did Force tank it on his run against Robert Hight at the U.S. Nationals? Motive and opportunity were certainly there: Force needed Hight to win for financial reasons and guaranteeing a victory for Hight – who drives one of Force’s cars – would certainly be easy as a finger snap during a head-to-head matchup.

But what is lacking was, and will be, the smoking gun. Only one person knows what Force was up to when the cars were staged in the Funny Car semifinals at Indy and he’s denying everything.

I have received a large number of emails from readers who are accusing Force of being a prostitute for his sponsors.

First, Castrol certainly might not agree with that.

Second, who in racing isn’t walking the streets for sponsors?

Did he cheat?

Let’s invoke the time-honored response of politicians who are put on the spot by a simple question: Define cheating, sir.

Memo to self: Let the IRS know that the above is purely a theoretical exercise.

* Could happen

It seems unlikely, but come late this Saturday night, the Sprint Cup series could head out of Richmond with its two winningest drivers of 2009 on the outside of the Chase.

Yep, neither Mark Martin nor Kyle Busch have secured playoff berths yet, even though they each have four victories this season.

Martin is 10th in points but only 69 ahead of 13th place. Busch 14th in points and 37 behind 12th.

That is, both are bad pit stops away from Chase banishment. And the Chase would not only lose drivers who have won eight of 25 races, it would lose its two top story lines of 2009.

Not the way this thing is supposed to work, is my guess.

Is it time for another tweak of the Chase format? A “win and you’re” in provision?

Memo to self: Place a hold on that order for “Mark Martin – Finally” t-shirts and tote bags.

That look

So, there was Tony Stewart hanging around Tony Schumacher’s team at the U.S. Nationals. He was wearing Schumacher gear and he was wearing an interesting look on his face.

It was a look which said, yes, I do believe I would like to try this. Dragsters, eh? 300 mph, eh? 8,000 horsepower, eh? 120 decibels, eh?

You think Stewart, the racer’s racer, wouldn’t be up for making nitromethane his new favorite cologne?

Memo to self: Look into Office Depot stock.

* On air

Road racer Scott Pruett will be the Newsmaker of the Week on “The Race Reporters” radio show, Wednesday, September 9, 7 p.m. EDT, on www.PowerUpChannel.com.

Pruett, reigning champion of the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype class in the Rolex Series, co-drives the Telmex Lexus-Riley with Memo Rojas. He is the Daytona Prototype class’ all-time wins leader and multiple-time winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Pruett will talk about his road racing championships in Grand-Am, Trans-Am and IMSA, wins in Indy Car and IROC, and NASCAR experience. He was among the drivers who participated in last week’s historic sports car test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Host Michael Knight will be joined for the journalists’ roundtable by John Oreovicz, of ESPN.com; Jim Pedley, managing editor of RacinToday.com; and Arizona Republic writer Mark Armijo.

The Race Reporters can be heard “live,” downloaded into an iPod, or accessed for listening on a delayed basis by clicking on the show icon at www.PowerUpChannel.com.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 9 2009
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • charlie says:

    Mr.Pedley who is the selfrightiuos one!
    give me me old fashion heads up drag racing!
    Ask Pam Hardy about the time Jim Leiberman din’nt even show up for a very important meeting with Revel. Why? ~BECAUSE HE DIDNT GIVE A CRAP ABOUT ALL THIS COMMERCIAL SPONSERSHIP! thats why the whole circit has turned into a big circus and John Force is the bigest rodeo clown of them all with with his loudmouth interviews. He may have made all these contributions to the NHRA. But then again Drag racings not what it used to be. Be carful what you ask for.
    ~Just one mans opin:)

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    John Force has done more for NHRA, and the Pedregons, than they ever will. I’m willing to give Force the benefit of the doubt. Besides that, I have complete confidence that IF Force had really been trying to throw the race he would have done a better job of it.