By admin | February 18, 2011
By Richard Allen
After Dale Earnhardt, Jr. claimed the pole position the Daytona 500, Tony Kornheiser of the ESPN’s PTI(Pardon The Interruption) indicated that he thought Junior’s pole win was a little too good to be true.
“There are people in and around the NASCAR world, not just drivers but people who cover the sport, who are winking at this one,” Kornheiser said. “Who are wondering if this wasn’t a setup because it’s the pole position.”
Kornheiser’s jab came as a result of a conversation he had had earlier in the day with Liz Clarke, a writer for the Washington Post who once served as a NASCAR beat writer for various newspapers. In that conversation Clarke had told Kornheiser that, “people who covered racing for a long time, a lot were just laughing when they heard Junior won the pole because of the rich NASCAR tradition of ginning up storylines and outcomes. There’s a lot of questions still about Richard Petty’s 200th win, which came the day Ronald Reagan was there. Everything Americana happened to fall into place that particular day.”
Anyone who has been around racing for any length of time would realize that fixing something such as a pole position win or an entire race would be a difficult proposition. Junior turned in a qualifying speed of 186.089 compared to Jeff Gordon’s second place lap of 185.966. That’s an awfully tight range for a fix to have been in place.
However, with that said, should Earnhardt go on to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday there will be plenty more claims like that made by Kornheiser. It would seemingly make for too good of a story when the downtrodden son of the former champion wins NASCAR’s biggest race on the ten year anniversary of his father’s death.
In reference to Clarke’s assertion that NASCAR has had more than a few coincidental ‘perfect scenario’ type races, there is historical evidence of times in which things have worked out very well for the sanctioning body.
The 1979 Daytona 500 in which a snow bound east coast watched Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison duke it out(literally) on the last lap while Richard Petty sailed to victory was a best case scenario for NASCAR to be sure. But how would something like that ever be arranged?
The race at Daytona in July of 2001 in which Junior won at the track on which his father had just recently been killed seemed almost too good to be true. Some even theorized that Junior’s car had been fitted with a so called ‘golden restrictor plate’. To that the question has to be asked, have you ever known of a secret from inside the NASCAR garage being kept for any length of time?
And, of course, there is the 1984 Firecracker 400 referenced by Clarke. I was at that race and would find it difficult to believe that Cale Yarborough willingly moved aside to let Richard Petty win. Cale looked like he was trying pretty hard to me.
Conspiracy theorists need to be aware that fixing a full length auto race would be even more difficult than arranging for a certain driver to win a pole, as difficult as that would be. During 500 miles of racing there will be crashes, blown tires, mechanical failures, botched pit stops and about a million other possibilities that could ruin the fix.
But even with these facts being evident to most who follow racing on a regular basis, the non-racing general public could be easily swayed by a talking head such as Kornheiser. And it must be kept in mind that the purpose of shows such as PTI is not necessarily to be factual, but to be provocative. These type programs get ratings by saying controversial things that will cause people to watch. In a sense, it is a sort of tabloid television.
So, if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins the Daytona 500 on Sunday it will sound too good to be true to some like Kornheiser. And these attention seeking types will cry “Fix!” and they will do so loudly. Be prepared.
To any who have visited this website on a somewhat regular basis it is rather obvious that few have been more critical of the NASCAR organization than I have. However, to claim that a fix is on goes beyond disagreements over the Chase for the Championship or the Car of Tomorrow, or even ‘lucky dogs’ and debris cautions. It challenges the legitimacy of the sport.
If NASCAR were to be caught in some sort of conspiracy to fix races their legitimacy would be ruined and the sport would prove to be a dead entity. It would be a dangerous game, one I would find difficult to believe even the current leadership of NASCAR would dare engage in.
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