By admin | July 29, 2009
By Richard Allen
NASCAR has a major problem among its fan base, whatâ€™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 Sundayâ€™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. Sundayâ€™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 Truexâ€™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.
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