By admin | September 11, 2013
By Richard Allen
After a race that was billed by many as one of the great Chase for the Sprint Cup deciding events in the history of the NASCAR playoff, it would be hard to imagine more things going wrong than have gone wrong for the sanctioning body over the last few days. What initially appeared to be a down-to-the-wire finish in which the final spots among the twelve drivers who were to make the showdown went right to the wire turned out to be a contrived hoax.
Almost immediately, media and fans alike began to question the outcome after things went a bit too perfectly for the Michael Waltrip Racing organization. Driver Martin Truex, Jr. barely squeaked into the Chase field when he ended up in a tie with Ryan Newman but won out on a tie-breaker. As it turns out, however, the whole thing had been scripted as MWR teammates Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers brought out cautions and lost positions in the final laps to aid their fellow driver.
Also, Jeff Gordon ended up on the short end of the deal when he fell just shy of making the Chase as a result of the shenanigans.
NASCAR officials uncovered the hoax and replaced Truex in the Chase field of twelve with Newman in what had to be an embarrassing admission that one of their races had been fixed right under their noses. After making headlines, even the mainstream media, the sanctioning body’s troubles seemed to be behind them as they attempted to focus attention on the upcoming Chase opener in Chicago with a national media tour.
However, yet another bit of manipulation may now have been uncovered. Some suspicious chatter between the Penske Racing team of Joey Logano and the Front Row Racing team of David Gilliland has now come to light. There at least appears to be the possibility that a second organization conspired to fix the outcome.
It seems as if the everyone is angry in what has spiraled into a no win situation for NASCAR. Some believe the penalties against MWR were too harsh against Truex while others think the sanctions weren’t strong enough against Bowyer. Gordon fans are upset because they believe their driver was cheated out of an opportunity to compete for his fifth Sprint Cup title. Now, everyone involved in the original mess is further outraged with the new Logano/Gilliland revelation.
I wrote earlier this week of my firm belief that all this nonsense is the direct result of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Making the playoff has become the one and only benchmark for success in NASCAR. Little else matters, including major race wins. Drivers and teams are considered failures if they don’t qualify, even if they have won races during the season.
As a result, teams are willing to do whatever it takes to get in, including the worst thing in all of sports- fix the outcome of an event.
This whole mess could not be more embarrassing for the sport and those run it, sponsor it and participate in it. Even though it is a pipe dream on my part, my greatest hope would be that NASCAR would have its eyes opened to the detriment done to this sport by the contrived method of providing a close championship battle for the TV networks.
Such will never happen but a person can dream, can’t they?
Racing is not a playoff sport like football or baseball. It’s just not. It is meant to be decided over the long haul with consistency and perseverance being the hallmarks.
When the championship was decided over the full 36 race season, the individual races mattered more. That was especially true when the title fight got narrowed down to just two or three drivers, leaving the rest of the field with nothing to do but try to add wins to their totals.
There will no doubt be some who point out the “boring” 2003 season as proof that the Chase is a necessity. Was it really that boring just because the championship was settled early? Do the individual races mean so little that they are nothing more than stepping stones to a title?
It will never happen, but I wish NASCAR would be so embarrassed by this situation that they find themselves in to decide to abandon the folly of trying to make this a playoff sport.
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