The Frontstretch: A Scarlet...Asterisk? Giving Illegitimate Wins Their Due by Amy Henderson -- Friday March 14, 2008

Go to site navigation Go to article

A Scarlet...Asterisk? Giving Illegitimate Wins Their Due

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday March 14, 2008


Remember The Scarlet Letter? The novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne in which young Hester Prynne is sentenced to wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing, a constant reminder to all that she had committed adultery, the utmost sin in her Puritan lifestyle? You probably read it in high school and possibly vowed never to read another book again as long as you lived. It was a public humiliation which earned Hester scorn wherever she went.

But this is not a book review.

NASCAR could stand to take a few pointers from the Puritans. No, I'm not advocating that Tony Stewart wear a giant red "W" for whiner, nor that the FOX color analysts wear twin "A's" for annoying the snot out of me every week, but in the swirl of controversy that surrounds each and every cry of "cheating" in the garage, why not make a team with an illegal car found in postrace inspection in a race they’ve won carry a permanent reminder?

No, not a big "C" on the hood.

Races won with an illegal car should forever have an asterisk beside them in the record book, according to Amy Henderson.

Although that might be an effective form of public humiliation for some, but what I mean is a little less Puritanical.

There should be an asterisk in the recordbook.

For every winning car found to be too low or to have an oil tank lid loose (or off) or to have some other modification that doesn't fit the rule book, the win should be marked with an asterisk. Since NASCAR isn't going to take the win away, a move that would certainly be in the history books (the win was stripped in the very first race in what is now Sprint Cup, and even the most casual fan knows it), they should let fans in generations to come judge for themselves if the win was legit, but there should be that little telltale star and a footnote telling exactly what was found on the car.

If a car is found to be illegal before practice, it is usually sent back to the garage to be fixed, punishing the team by costing them valuable track time. In the case of two Hendrick Motorsports cars at Infineon last year, it cost the chance to practice and qualify in an unprecedented and unrepeated move. In cases where the car has never hit the track, let alone in competition, the loss of practice is punishment enough—no competitive advantage was ever gained.

If a car is illegal after qualifying, the qualifying time is tossed. Again, the punishment fits the crime, although under the current qualifying system, teams in the Top 35 in owner's points still get to race under their locked in status while those who are not go home. That's a product of an ineffective and ridiculous rule, however, and not the punishment itself, which is the same for all. Even if the car is locked in, the team faces the disadvantage of starting shotgun on the field-a situation that can leave even a fast car a lap down early, never to recover. Again, the punishment fits the crime.

But if a car is illegal after a race, the punishment is significantly less than the severity of infractions. There is, just as in the cases of any other penalty, a hefty fine and a point penalty, coupled with an extended vacation for the offending crew chief. Apparently now, if the team makes the Chase, they also lose the ten-point bonus for winning. And to me, cheating during a race is worse than trying to squeak a questionable body through inspection. Sure you can argue intent, but the bottom line is, if the car competed in is legal, then the finish is legit. Not so an in-race violation.

So, if the win stands, let the fans and historians decide if the team has committed the ultimate sin or simply had an opportune equipment failure. But don't put the few questionable wins up beside the hundreds of legitimate wins over the years as if they are the same thing.

They are not the same thing.

So give each team who wins a race with an illegal car a scarlet letter of their own-an indelible mark that will make followers of the sport take pause and question the legitimacy of the win-or whether NASCAR went overboard. Either way, we deserve the right to decide-and the teams deserve the questions.

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:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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

03/14/2008 09:02 AM

yeah.. good thought Amy. Everyone always made a big deal out of Richard Petty having 200 wins. I suppose they forget that one of his LAST wins was at a Lowes fall race. His teams put wrong tires on one side of the car (gave him extra grip) and had an oversized engine. Still the win stood,… if not RP would forever be stuck at 199

03/14/2008 06:19 PM

I’m not saying you are wrong Amy, but I’ve read your material before and I think it’s pretty obvious you don’t like Carl Edwards. That’s fine, we all have our own opionions but it’s been almost 2 weeks now. Hasn’t this issue been hashed and re-hashed enough? Until NASCAR changes the rules all the Carl Edwards haters are just going to have to deal with it and move on!! I was in Chicago in 2006 when Gordon got into the back of Kenseth on the last lap and took him out. Was it intentional? Probably not. I thought it was a crappy end to a race but I didn’t run out on the track and have a 2 week tantrum. It’s time to make this old news and MOVE ON!


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.