By admin | October 18, 2009
By Richard Allen
Jimmie Johnson and his #48 Hendrick Motorsports team looked to be just a bit better than average during the first 26 races of the season. Since the start of the Chase for the Championship, however, that team has caught fire at just the right time. That should come as no surprise since this has been the case so often over the past three years.
Based on the e-mails and conversations I am part of, there are many who have become disenchanted with this now four times repeated scenario.
With television ratings seemingly sinking lower and attendance dropping off on a weekly basis it would appear as though NASCAR needs something to give it a boost. Finding enough wrong with the #48 car in a pre or post race inspection to warrant a penalty could serve NASCAR well in many ways.
Consider that NASCAR issued a strange warning to this team and its HMS mates, the #5 car, after an earlier race this season. Those two cars were said to have been barely within the allowable tolerances. The odd warning to a team that was within the tolerances caused cries of conspiracy and cover up from many NASCAR detractors. Why not suddenly find the #48 out of the allowed tolerances?
So what if the car in question is indeed legal? Why should that matter? This is an organization that has shown it is not afraid to openly manipulate the outcome of races so why should manipulating the outcome of a championship be any different?
The late race debris cautions have become such an incredible joke that even the competitors make light of them. â€œThe 9 car should have known better than to get so far ahead after last week,â€ one driver said over his team radio when the predictable yellow flag waved late in the NASCAR Banking 500 in Charlotte. â€œYou know their going to find some debris when someone has a lead like that.â€
If the #48 was taken to the NASCAR R&D center after Saturdayâ€™s race, which is the custom for all race winners, then something worthy of a 100 point penalty would serve NASCAR well. As it stands now, Johnson has a 90 point lead over second place and a 135 point lead over third. Of course, one problem for NASCAR would be that the two closest pursuers are Johnsonâ€™s HMS teammates.
However, a penalty to this team could help end the rampant speculation that NASCAR helps them win and that the sanctioning body plays favorites in their direction. Such a penalty might restore at least some interest among those who have or are about to turn away in an anti-Johnson rebellion.
If you have not figured out by now, this column has been written in a tongue-in-cheek style. NASCAR should not penalize a team just for being better than everyone else no more than they should interfere with the end of races by putting out phony debris cautions.
There would be no basis for the writing of such a column as this if there were not a precedent for this type of manipulative behavior in the past. My fear is that the powers that be are making such a joke of their own organization that the â€˜sportâ€™ is about to fade into oblivion. If they do not come to their senses soon, there will be even lower television ratings and empty grandstands in the future.
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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