By admin | September 18, 2011
By Richard Allen
The Sprint Cup race in Richmond could go down as a turning point in the history of NASCAR should the situation not be resolved properly. If not, then those who cover the sport on a full or part time basis will have legitimate cause to question each and every late race caution flag.
On lap 385 of the Wonderful Pistachios 400 at the Richmond International Raceway driver Paul Menard spun to bring out a caution. That, in turn, helped his teammate, Kevin Harvick, take the lead of the race and go on to the win.
After the race, Jeff Gordon openly questioned whether or not Menard’s spin was legitimate.
Tampering with the natural course of a sporting event is something that must be taken very seriously. Other leagues certainly do. Many know that a player or coach can receive the ultimate punishment from Major League Baseball for doing such by being removed from that sport permanently.
Fans often believe that it is gambling that warrants the lifetime ban, and profiting from so called insider information is damning to the cause of anyone accused of baseball’s ultimate crime, but it is tampering with the legitimate outcome of the event that is most damaging. Such activities bring the sport’s legitimacy into question.
For a sport to be taken seriously, it must be considered legitimate. And in this case, the viewpoints of those who might be considered ‘outsiders’ are critical.
Earlier in the year, ESPN show host Tony Kornheiser was roundly shouted down by NASCAR fans and media when he stated his belief that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was awarded the pole for the Daytona 500 rather than having earned it. While NASCAR fans may not normally consider the opinions of such people worthwhile, it suddenly becomes so when hard evidence is presented to boost their claims.
Oddly enough, Kornheiser was in attendance at Richmond as the guest of Jimmie Johnson when the potentially phony caution flag flew.
When teams arrived in Chicago this weekend, NASCAR announced that they were looking into the claims of last week made by some that Menard’s spin was an intentional move to bring out a caution and aid Harvick. Particularly in question was some of the Richard Childress Racing team radio chatter that may have indicated Menard’s intent.
Ultimately, NASCAR said their investigation found nothing to cause them to act unless new information comes to light.
Obviously, NASCAR could not go back and change the outcome of a race held over a week ago. But, should the sanctioning body find a damning piece of evidence at some time in the future the penalty should be a harsh one.
Unfortunately, there are instances of such behaviors having been tolerated, and even chuckled at, in the sport’s past. A ‘spin’ by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. once in Bristol readily comes to mind.
Am I saying that Menard should be banned permanently if some previously undisclosed radio transmission is uncovered or an admission by someone in the RCR organization comes forth? No, not necessarily. However, the penalty should be severe enough that it discourages further use of the practice.
A suspension for a race or races should be enacted. And more, every team in that driver’s organization should have points deducted since intentionally causing a caution would most likely be done to help a teammate. Just a monetary fine is not enough.
The NASCAR organization has not always been considered trustworthy by some who follow the sport. But any organization that has to make judgment calls will always be brought into question. However, in a case in which clear evidence of tampering is found, harsh actions are necessary. If this proves to be one of those incidents, then NASCAR must defend its honor.
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