The Frontstretch: Your Only Job is Fairness: An Open Letter to NASCAR by Amy Henderson -- Thursday June 28, 2007

Go to site navigation Go to article

Your Only Job is Fairness: An Open Letter to NASCAR

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday June 28, 2007


Dear Brian, Mike, John, and the rest of the people in position to make up rules as you go along:

I know your jobs aren't easy. I probably wouldn't want any of them. I'm a school teacher, though, so I know a thing or two about being fair. Fairness isn't about convenience. It isn't about making an example of someone, and it isn't about proving a point. Fairness is about applying the rules to everyone in the same manner.

I thought you had been trying to do just that this year. After all, you came down hard on teams with aerodynamic alterations at Daytona. After all, you told everyone that you would penalize offenders with violations on the Car of Tomorrow, and you did. When the No. 8 car was found to have an illegal wing angle after qualifying you punished them according to your previous statement. After all, they had tampered with the COT in competition (qualifying, even the sham it has become with the top-35 rule, is still competition, make no mistake about it) and they had been warned.

Had that violation been discovered in the weekend's opening inspection, I'm sure that you would have done what you had always done-politely declined to let the team finish inspection until they had fixed the issue, at which point you would put the sticker on the windshield and hand over the wing. This was, after all, the way you handled the issue with the fender on the No. 16 COT earlier in the year, after all. This was how other teams with discrepancies on the COT and the regular car were treated.

Until Sonoma, when, it seems, someone had heard rumblings that you perhaps favored one or two teams when it came to on-track calls and various penalties. Were you determined to prove them wrong at any cost? Was that why you chose to abandon fairness in favor of public opinion?

For when you pulled the No. 24 and No. 48 cars from the inspection line last week at Sonoma, you suddenly decided to up the ante. Although the template fit the cars, there was an area between the templates that you didn't like. So, instead of allowing those teams to fix the issue (something that was able to be done quickly and easily) and missing some of practice, you made them sit in the garage all day, because missing qualifying is surely a major penalty on a road course. The No. 60 team later said that you allowed them to fix a wheel issue during a later inspection with no penalty at all, even though that issue was discovered after qualifying and before the race. In fact, you have only harshly penalized a team once for an opening day tech issue once, in 2002, when you took a mere 25 points from the No. 2 team for an illegal spoiler on a superspeedway car.

The parking penalty cost both teams points on race day, because everyone knows that starting position is paramount on a road course. In all likelihood, it cost more than the 25-point "precedent" that had been set five years ago. And in that instance, that team had been allowed to practice and qualify their car for the race. At the very least, these two teams should have had to take their backup cars off the haulers and gone through tech, practice, qualifying, and the race in those machines.

But you took full advantage of an opportunity to show the world that you can punish whomever, whenever, even those that many thought perhaps you favored. I do not believe that you will, as you well should, park every COT that has an issue in opening technical inspection at New Hampshire, barring every one from practice and qualifying. That is the only way that you can salvage any credibility, any shard of the fairness that a sanctioning body should put above all else.

Adding insult to injury, you further penalized those two teams this week, as if being made an example of wasn't enough. You punished them as if they had competed in equipment that was less than legal, when in fact they never took so much as one lap in cars that were outside of your rather vague parameters. Had the violations been discovered after qualifying, and thus given the teams an unfair advantage in competition, these penalties would have been fair and consistent. As it is, they are just plain wrong. Mr. Darby, you said this week that “if this modification had been done at Michigan it would have been different. That was the old car and the old way of doing business. If a team had modified the fender in the same area and got too excessive with it, they would have been told to go back to the garage and fix it and there would have been no real harm nor foul.”

Why, then, were the 60 and 16, among several others, allowed to fix the issues found in opening inspection for COT races while only the 24 and 48 were not, especially when the issue on the No. 16 was in the same area of the car-the fender-that you found the issues at Sonoma?

What was done this week was not fair; it was not consistent with what you have done for years; and it was not justified in any way. It was used as a public image opportunity, not as the opportunity to police the sport fairly.

Competition is about innovation, about trying to get any small edge, about never giving less than the best. Policing the rules in any sport is right and necessary. But in so doing, you must first be fair. In this case, either pull EVERY team with an opening tech violation from practice and qualifying, or allow EVERY team to fix the issue and go through again. You showed last week that you are unwilling to do this and so are unwilling to treat every competitor fairly. That's a shame, because as the sanctioning body, your first concern should be fairness. Instead, image took that spot, while fairness in competition took a backseat. That is really a shame.


The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

06/28/2007 09:27 PM

Well done, Amy.

The only other message I would send to Daytona Beach is this:

They may think over-penalizing the HMS teams will make the HMS-haters, who, as a group, are still in a lather over Junior, happy. But if they will leave the corporate suites and actually visit a racetrack once in a while, they would know that that 24 and 48 have many fans too.

The only smart thing to do is to eliminate subjectivity in the rules and make the rules clear and available to everybody and then to enforce them fairly and consistently for all teams.

06/29/2007 05:51 AM


THANK YOU, maybe if enough of us write letters not only to NASCAR, but sponsors such as NEXTEL, people will get the message that NASCAR DOES NOT PLAY BY THE RULES SUCH AS THEY ARE!


This I do believe reflects on all the sponsors, with NEXTEL at the head of the line!

06/29/2007 06:07 AM

Amy, that was awesome!! I wish I had the skill to write as well as you do. What you said is what I’ve been saying all along. The fact that the 24 and 48 teams were not allowed to Qualify was a huge penalty; one that will now have to be followed by NASCAR for the rest of this season, at least. All I keep reading about, on any website, are the penalties that were given and how lax they were. However, not one of the authors of any of these articles have mentioned the Qualifying penalty. It’s almost like “they” want it swept under the rug and forgotten about. Yeah right, like that’s ever going to happen. Jeff and Jimmie will both bounce back from what happended last weekend and other teams I’m sure paid close attention to what happened to them. But we all know that the crews will continue to be innovative and try to make the CoT better than the one that rolled onto the track earlier this year. As for the Powers That Be in Daytona, you do have jobs that I wouldn’t want in a million years, but only because you create most of the problems that you have. I would really love to see one of you actually respond to Amy’s message….but I won’t hold my breath.

Greg G
06/29/2007 06:19 AM

Even more significant is that before taking the car to Sonoma the 24 car went to NASCAR to be recertified after working on the fuel cell and the fenders were on the car then when the car was approved by them.

06/29/2007 06:33 AM

Greg, is that factual or heresay? I hadn’t heard that before, and if true, it really puts a different light on the whole thing.

06/29/2007 06:56 AM

Just the whinings of another Gorden and Johnson fan, “Everybody else gets away with it why can’t Jeffy and Jimmi!!!” it’s not fair!!!
Boo Hoo, Hey cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it.
Don’t you worry you little 24 lovin head, Steve and Chad will be at the track for the next 6 weeks hiding in the Sponser suites and Jeffs motor home just like last time. Call the race with their Nexte… “Opps we aren’t suppose to say that word anymore.” I mean Sprint phones.

M. B. Voelker
06/29/2007 06:57 AM

First, Nascar specifically told the teams that they’d go a little easy for the first, few COT races while everyone adjusted. Then they specifically told the teams when that adjustment period ended.

Second, while its possible that the semi-skilled, partially volunteer crews of the underfunded backmarkers might violate rules accidentally the top teams in contention for wins and for the Championship use windtunnels and other tools to work to fractional millimeter tolerances. Nothing about the car a top team loads on the hauler is there by accident.

Third, if you present it at the track that way you intended to race it that way. So no crying about getting caught in pre-race inspection.

06/29/2007 07:16 AM

Must be that you are a “Jeffy and Jimmie” fan? Would you have writeen the same thing if it would have happened to any other driver? I don’t think so. Take your punishment like men and we will see what happens in the future.

06/29/2007 07:28 AM

Amy: Terrific article! I wish I had 1% of the journalistic talent you possess. You put everything out there in black and white, something Nascar isn’t capable of doing. BRAVO!!!

Kevin J
06/29/2007 07:32 AM

Amy, well written piece. As a fan of the 24/48 teams, I understand when they have to take their medicine, but the consistency or lack thereof really irks me from Daytona. If the open wheel series would ever get back together, maybe the combination would drive more fans out after it’s too late to save them.

06/29/2007 07:34 AM

Great article. I think NASCAR should be rated by fans. Some kind of scale. Also we need to continue to send letters.

06/29/2007 08:05 AM

Well written… but wrong. M. B. Voelker is correct. Everyone seems to ignore the written rule for the COT. “20-2H (fenders may not be cut or altered except for wheel or tire clearance which must be approved by the Series Director) of the 2007 NASCAR rule book”. How grey can that area be?

06/29/2007 08:29 AM

Mark-You are missing the point. NASCAR still has to be fair and balanced when enforcing the rules.

06/29/2007 08:56 AM

Well written Amy, congrats, and thanks. Maybe the 24 & 48 haters will someday see the light and understand that the inconsistency of penalties and unfairness is field wide. I can’t wait ‘til this harsher-than-normal double penalty crap happens the their favorite driver. I will be all over the FS like Jr in a bump-draft.

Gene Sykes
06/29/2007 08:57 AM

How about the Busch race when they threw a flag for debris so Denny Hamlin could makeup a lap.They never showed any debris. Carl ran over debris and they never threw a flag.Could it be they wanted Hamlin to win the race??Nascar makes wrestling look honest.

06/29/2007 08:59 AM

Well written article, but like Mark wrote-*_WRONG_*.
Specifically altering a body part is much more severe than having a bolt hole drilled and passing for four races(#9,19,10), or inadvertantly using a wing bracket, that was in testing, and not changed back over. These penalties were not severe enough. Parking these cheaters(remember the purposely installed height adjuster last year?) would have been the proper penalty for a repeat offender. Hendrick did a risk/reward assessment and surmised that the penalty that they would probably receive was worth the risk.
Something to think about.

06/29/2007 09:31 AM

As always, the non-JG/JJ/HMS fans are seeing only what they want to see. The 24 and 48 teams have been penalized by NASCAR for doing something that they shouldn’t have done; fine, that’s all well and good and we accept those penalties. What I think the JG/JJ fans are trying to point out to the rest of you people is that by disallowing those two drivers to QUALIFY last Friday was an additional penalty above and beyone anything else that NASCAR has levied against any other driver yet this season. This is a FACT and it cannot be disputed. NASCAR has now put themselves into a position where they will HAVE to continue this practice of NON-QUALIFYING for ANY modification to the CoT race. Yes, Steve L. and Chad K. were wrong in what they did (gray area or not), that is a non-issue at this point. The issue now is; Will NASCAR be consistant with any future CoT violation and not allow the driver in question to Qualify. If you can’t answer that question then please don’t bother to respond. Jeff Gordon fans aren’t “whining” as so many of you state, but we are putting the issue of Qualifying in the forefront of everyone’s minds so when this happens to your driver you might actually think back to these conversations and go, “Oh yeah, I get it now”.

JJ Rocks!
06/29/2007 05:13 PM

Let us not forget that JG’s car sat in NASCAR’s R&D center for 2 DAYS and nothing was ever said about the fenders…yet another example of HMS’s engineers making total bafoons of NASCAR and NASCAR getting their panties in a wad over it.

06/29/2007 06:32 PM

Hey all!

Brooke-I don’t care WHAT team this was, I’d have had the same reaction, because the penalty was unfair.

All the information I have is that it is indeed correct that the 24 and possibly the 48 too were in fact teched in the R&D center the day before they left for Sonoma. They should have been told then, and allowed to fix the issue.

Again, my issue is NOT with whether the car as illegal, it was with NASCAR penalizing the teams the way they did WHEN they did. I also think it;s rather naive on anyone’s part, NASCAR’s included, to think the smaller teams modifications are “by accident.” It is the job of every crewman to find any advantage they can. NASCAR needs to penalize everyone the same. That was the point of this letter.

Finally, I was at NHIS today. Qualifying order was thrown off by teams “having trouble getting through inspection.” One of those was the 2 car-hardly a backmarker team. Yet, they were allowed to qualify, obviously after fixing whatever the issue was. THAT is where my issue lies-not with whether or not I like Jeff or Jimmie or anyone else.

06/29/2007 09:59 PM

Today I have heard how 17 cars did not pass pre race inspection and all were allowed to fix the problems and come back threw. Why weren’t they parked for practice and quilfiying?Why aren’t they being fined?
Why did Brain Vickers get sent home only and no futher penitlys? NOT FAIR! nascar is going down the drain fast. soon nobody will want to watch it.

07/02/2007 08:19 AM

it seems to me that NASCAR is handicapping the races. unconsistancies and unfairness have no place in the sport. while being under enough scrutiny this year, in reference to the Daytona fiascos, they seem to just keep conjuring random penalties. no doubt that money rules this (and every) sport, but that shouldn’t be the bottom line. if they intend to make the playing field truly equal (evidenced by spec cars), i think they’re getting that done. penalties aside, these COT races seem to have some of the best competition. “hard to pass” ... isn’t that racing?! isn’t that what all the R&D was about?! if you keep bending the branch (NASCAR), it’s eventually going to break … and these latest bends definitely made them snap!

07/03/2007 09:08 AM

I don’t care what team it is, they were warned not to mess with the bodies of the cot and and they did. So they got what they had coming.


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
Piquet, Jr. Wins K&N East Opener

Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.