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NASCAR has a major perception problem

By admin | July 29, 2009

By Richard Allen

NASCAR has a major problem among its fan base, what’s left of its fan base that is. Many people perceive that the sanctioning body plays favorites. It is thought that some are given a wink and a nudge when doing wrong while others a pounded for the their wrong doings. Some even go so far as to say that NASCAR creates things to penalize its non-favorites for even when there is really nothing to warrant a penalty.

This past Sunday’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway clearly illustrated the perception many have of the racing organization. Juan Pablo Montoya was leading the race by a comfortable margin. During what was meant to be his final pit stop of the day, NASCAR declared that he was too fast on pit road. Such a violation carries the penalty of a slow speed drive through the pits while everyone else races around the track at full speed. The penalty dropped Montoya from contention to win the race.

As a result of the Montoya penalty, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin were left to battle for the win. Those two drivers are employed by Hendrick Motorsports, which has long received the scorn and accusations of conspiracy theorists. Those theorists believe NASCAR does whatever it can to help HMS win races. Sunday’s situation only served to intensify the cries of conspiracy.

Whether such a conspiracy is really afoot would be virtually impossible to prove, but that does not really matter. The problem for NASCAR is that many, many fans believe it is real. Thus, in their minds at least, it is real.

But before feeling sympathy for NASCAR consider that much of this mess has been brought on themselves. There are innumerable examples of inconsistent rulings for similar infractions which has given rise to these accusations.

Here is one example. Earlier this year owner/driver Carl Long was found to have an engine that exceeded the 358 cubic inch maximum. The engine in question measured 358.17 cubic inches. That is above the maximum allowance. However, any gain from such a minor infraction would be so small it would barely be measurable. Worse, Long struggles to make ends meet with his tiny race team. That particular engine was one that had been bought at a cheap price due to the fact that it was used and had suffered slight damage.

As a result of the rules violation, Long was fined a jaw-dropping $200,000, the largest fine in NASCAR history. Also, Long was suspended for twelve weeks.

Now, here is an example of how another team that had a seemingly meaningless infraction was treated.
After the recent race in Chicago, Martin Truex’s car did not conform to the allowable height. The right rear quarter panel was deemed too high in post-race inspection. His team was fined only $25,000 and docked 25 points. There was no suspension.

Truex drives for a more high profile team with a bigger sponsor than does Carl Long.

A minor and unintended infraction crippled Long and his team. A minor infraction which was most likely done on purpose was only given what amounted to a slap on the wrist for the wealthier team.

And, ask any crew chief in garage area which they would rather get away with and they would say the higher right rear quarter panel.

To further illustrate that conspiracy theorists believe NASCAR chooses who it wants to pick on is the Jeremy Mayfield case. However, there is not enough space in this newspaper to get into the length and breadth of that mess.

Sometimes, it does not matter if a problem really exists. If enough people believe it exists, then it exists.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

8 Responses to “NASCAR has a major perception problem”

  1. mrclause Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Nascars perception problem is when they look in the mirror and perceive their own greatness and infallibility.

    Most of the rest of us are pretty solid in our perception of their greed, their arrogance, how they can stink up their own show week after week and then make their feeble attempts at passing the blame to the competitors and fans.

  2. Ritchie Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Remember Mark Martins intake spacer violation? That had no performace advantage. It was bolted not welded to the intake, thats all. Cost him the title. Things are different now that he is with hendrick. I bet he would get away with it now.

  3. The Old Guy Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 9:18 am

    “What’s left of its fan base” is right on the money. Been a fan since the 50s. May not be one much longer.

    The Chase (Producing champions who aren’t champions), COT, Toyota, cookie cutter tracks and no more Southern 500 on Labor day weekend.

    I’ll admit that on any given Sunday, there are more cars capable of winning than there were 30 years ago. But, the racing is no longer exciting.

  4. amy anderson Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 11:09 am

    NASCAR will wait until the fans have deserted them for something more interesting and fair, then Sir Brain will take what millions are left and go have fun doing something else. That’s what the rich do. The effect on countless other human beings has no meaning for them.

  5. Steve Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Treating all speeding on pit road the same is dumb to begin with. Kind of like saying going 56 in a 55 is the same as 80 in a 55. Most “zero tolerance” policies end up making the people who enforce them look stupid. Like the kids who get expelled from school for an aspirin tablet(drugs) or a plastic knife picnic knife(deadly weapon). The infraction by Montoya should not be enough to lose a race. The Carl Long episode made NASCAR look pretty pathetic now this just adds to it.

  6. Steve Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I think I’m being honest. I didn’t wish evil on anyone or threaten violence. What’s the problem?

  7. Phyllis Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I never thought I’d say this, but……
    I’m really starting to enjoy and appreciate professional golf a lot more.

    NASCAR has become passe’.

  8. midasmicah Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    In my case the perception is real. I’m glad certain writers (including you) bring up topics a lot of the hard and fast nas$car media suck-ups dismiss. Yes I do believe that Hendrick Racing (and yes children, Hendricks-Stewart Racing) are the Golden boys who get free gratus. Yes, I think Montoya got the royal shalf last week-end. That was a small segment of the race I watched. I switched the channel after that and never knew nor cared who won the race. I knew who would win and I was right. nas$car, in it’s total arrogence has completely turned off it’s dwindling fanbase. I just couldn’t believe and still don’t believe what they did to Carl Long. Somewhere along the line he got on nas$car’s bad side and they deep-sixed him….and their drug testing program….well isn’t that a hoot. The dictatorship that is nas$car is slowly crumbling. I wish somebody would try to start real stock car league. Oh well. I’ve been watching a lot of baseball and football’s coming. Thanks for pushing me away from the table, nas$car.