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Apparently, sandbagging has just become an issue in NASCAR

By admin | May 21, 2012

By Richard Allen

On Monday morning I read a headline in a newspaper that declared, ‘Sandbagging in All Star Race irritates fans’. The headline almost caused me to openly laugh in the middle of a crowded teachers lounge.

During Saturday’s Sprint All Star Race, driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus employed a strategy in which, after winning the first of four 20 lap segments, the #48 car rode at the back of the pack until the final dash for the finish. The rules of that race allowed each segment winner to move to the front of the pack prior to the final mandatory pit stop of the night.

Second and third segment winners Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski also used the same strategy after their wins.

“Everybody knew if you could win that first segment, you could control the night,” Johnson explained after the race. “When the rules came down, every crew chief in the garage realized the importance of that first segment.”

Apparently, it has just come to light for some that so called ‘sandbagging’ is an issue in NASCAR. Funny, but it seems to me this has been going on since 2004, or for that matter, much further back. But in more recent times, the system currently in place in this sport encourages such behavior.

This one race served as a microcosm of what has been going on ever since the inception of the Chase for the Championship in 2004. That system of taking twelve drivers for a ten race dash for the Sprint Cup title encourages teams to run just hard enough early on to get locked into the playoff then take care of equipment and test until those final ten events.

That’s what NASCAR seems to want, folks. Or at least they seem to believe it is what’s best for the sport. Johnson and his crew took advantage of the system by playing smarter than everybody else. That is what they did for five consecutive seasons between 2006 and 2010.

NASCAR’s leadership goes from one gimmicky system to another that, as they declare, “will encourage hard racing”. Instead, their schemes seem to always prove otherwise. What typically happens is a short burst of intensity followed by a long period of ‘sandbagging’ with another short burst of intensity at the end. Again, one race served as a microcosm of a much bigger picture.

When asked about the criticisms of the All Star Race format after collecting $1 million on Saturday night, Johnson offered honest commentary. “That’s going to be tough for me to knock the system after how our night went because it just worked out exactly how we’d hoped,” he said.

Johnson could use that one statement to summarize all five of his championships. Why would the driver and team who have proven their ability to outsmart everyone, including and especially NASCAR, feel otherwise?

Anyone who has spent much time reading this blog will probably know I have been critical of these fly-by-night television ratings driven schemes for a while now. Hopefully there will be a growing feeling of discontent toward the Chase and other types of quick hitters and change will come about.

Topics: Articles |

21 Responses to “Apparently, sandbagging has just become an issue in NASCAR”

  1. Tyler West Says:
    May 21st, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Rich I agree. This is a mess. The Chase and all the other gimmick’s SUCK! The All Star race was a total joke. I keep hoping that Nascar will come to their senses but I keep getting dissappointed. Everything seems to going downhill. The programs on SPEED are laughable. Trackside is a total joke now, Race Hub is a toss up anymore, and I swear if they pull in another clueless bimbo to talk about social media I am going to hurl. Nascar has totally sold their soul for what?……..Oh yeah, sponsor money. I forgot, I gues I’ll shut up now. It SUCKS!!! What is wrong with racing hard door to door, ruffing each other up and at the end of the season the man on top is the champ. They have become the new F1 boring and completely predictable. Way to go!!!

  2. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    May 21st, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Well said as usual Rich.

  3. midasmicah Says:
    May 21st, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    The only way things are going to change is if there are more and more empty seats masquerading as people over time. Absolutely the worst all-star race I’ve ever seen. As far as the chase goes, everybody who watches the sport knows that the first 26 races are meaningless. Actual racing is now discouraged. What a SHAM THE SPORT HAS BECOME.

  4. zhills fan Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 4:12 am


  5. Tony Geinzer Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Rich, I would bet anything that I would want to have more authentic racing at All Star and I have said before I wanted K and N, Modified, or Late Model Drivers make the trip to Charlotte for All Star and who wouldn’t love to see Mike Stefanik or Frank Kimmel in the All Star Race? Just because JJ can run away with a bad race doesn’t mean its good and fun.

  6. Bill B Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Right on Rich. I for one am getting tired of beating this drum. I think the only course of action left is to abandon the sport. The only thing keeping me watching is my loyalty to my driver. When he retires (and it won’t be too much longer) I think I will too.
    Free at last! Free at last!

  7. jerseygirl Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Ever since the Chase - such a WONDERFUL idea - came into play, sandbagging has been the norm. Before the chase, when a team had to race the entire season to stay in the points lead, it made a difference. Yeah, sometimes there were blowouts in the points but at least people could move up in the points, now if you’re not in the chase, you’re locked out of the top 12 so you’re racing to stay in the top 35.

    Like Bill, I’m only in this until my favorite retires. After that, I’ll be a casual fan at best since there is less and less reason to follow this sport. NASCAR and the TV people have sucked all the fun out of it.

    I’m taking a break from Fox’s race coverage, so I’ll be following via MRN and trackpass until TNT takes over.

    Fox used to be the best of the TV partners, now they are all hot air and tight camera shots. Not worth wasting the time to watch.

  8. oldirtracker Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Many years ago I went to a new track in dover to see an all star race consisting of modified drivers from the north and south. this 5 hour trip from Virginia was the best money i ever spent to see a race. can you imagine modified cars (chopped down death traps) from that many years ago on the monster mile. My point is put some weekly series track champions together on a track they are not familiar with racing for big bucks and you WILL see a real allstar race, not a bunch of overpaid primadonas sandbagging for a million bucks. im also ready to hurl.

  9. Patricia Campbell Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 10:37 am

    The ALL Star race was awful. Worst I have ever seen. The three drivers in the back, were not racing. Please change this NASCAR. Get rid of Brian and all who think of the crapest racing in years and get rid of the chase. It really stinks!!!!!!

  10. Bob Tanner Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Good article, Rich. Keep up the good work. There are a lot of fans out here who either have, or are close to giving up and the sport. Why Brian Z. refuses to acknowledge us remains a mystery. OTOH, while the Winston stunk in so many different ways, the preliminary race was, IMNSVHO, great. Watching A.J. come through the field, fight MacMurry for second place, was the best honest-to-goodness, unmanipulated racing on a cookie-cutter track that I’ve seen out of NA__AR is a couple years.

  11. John Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I agree worst All-Star race ever. I think they need to go back to the random choice of inversion so it is fair. I wasted my Saturday night.

  12. Danny Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    All we need is drivers who have a pair, and the desire to RACE. Take away the multimillion contracts, and make racing what it is supposed to be. If you want more money, RACE FOR IT!

  13. sylvia richardson Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 3:21 pm


  14. Karen M Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I agree the All Star was BORING! I have been a diehard fan for about 15 years…it’s getting really hard to watch an entire race. I think once my driver retires, I will too. I like a lot of the drivers, but the racing is so bad that it’s not worth wasting a Sunday watching something that I can get highlights of. It’s too bad the sport has turned into this. It would be nice if NASCAR actually paid attention to the fans and get rid of the Chase!!!

  15. Sarge Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I take no issue with your criticism of the All-Star Race format. I thought it was silly and gimmicky, and not a whole lot of fun to watch. I also wonder why the other drivers always seem to let Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus select the first pit stall, as it always seems to give them an advantage.

    In any case, the idea that sandbagging is a recent phenomenon is absurd. Richard Petty didn’t win 200 races by running all out every single lap… the guys that did this during his era were usually out of the race from a blown engine, a blown tire, or a crash. Petty drove the car so it would last the full distance, and drove it hardest at the end. By any definition, that’s sandbagging, but no one complains about Petty doing it (at least not today).

  16. Blowtorch Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Here’s how you know NASCAR has hit rock bottom. F-1 is now more exciting and entertaining.

    The end!

  17. Chris Fiegler Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    What did you guys think of the 2012 Sprint All-Star Race from Charlotte?

  18. oldnascar Says:
    May 23rd, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I Hated the ALL STAR RACE . the drivers that RACED got the short end of the deal.
    here is an idea for the ALL Star race. Use a point system for the 1st 3 segments. then line theim up for the final segment by the point earned. but make the last segment more than 10-laps
    this way you will have to RACE in all 3 segments.

  19. Offkilter Says:
    May 23rd, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    In all honesty, there was some 3 wide racing in some of the segments and thats pretty amazing for charlotte, so personally, i thought overall it was pretty good racing until the last segment. Some of the blame for that last segment blowout should rest on kenseth for his sucky restart on the outside of jj… That absolutely hosed up everthing and allowed jj to get away free and clean.

    Maybe oldnascar in above post has the solution for the sandbagging. Maybe even require everyone to put on 4 fresh tires for the last segment. Hey, its allready gimmicky, why not add a couple more to get rid of the sandbagging

  20. Gordon85Wins Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Once again Rich you have nailed it. The Chase was the biggest part of my departure from NASCAR, although the Danica Show was the final nail in the coffin.

    What’s amazing to me is that NASCAR’s own website conducts polls asking people if they like the Chase–and they always do it at times when it should be the most popular, like in the championship battle last year. The fans soundly reject it by a margin you will never see in any American election. They HAVE TO KNOW how unpopular the Chase is.

    I often wonder, does NASCAR and the networks really think the fans are this stupid that their marketing people can still convince us rubes that the Chase is great? And whenever I see King Brian give an interview, I realize, yes, they do.

  21. Russ Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Just a thought.
    The Top 35 rule was, in my opinion, done to appease the teams demand for “franchising”. It gives the mega teams what they wanted, a guarentee of making all the races, and, at the same time, avoids problems with a restraint of trade legal issue.

    So what was the goal of the Chase? Was that a guarentee to the networks that they would have some form of playoff format? Possibly, if so I would expect it to be modified with the new TV contract but not eliminated.