The Frontstretch: A Slap On The Wrist? NASCAR Chooses Inconsistency Over Fairness... Again by Amy Henderson -- Friday November 5, 2010

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A Slap On The Wrist? NASCAR Chooses Inconsistency Over Fairness... Again

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday November 5, 2010


You could almost miss it, perusing some popular NASCAR Websites. It’s kind of innocuous on NASCAR Online with only a small box dedicated to it, buried under a story on the Sprint Cup title race, another on Richard Petty, and a third on the destruction at Talladega. The story itself is short, too, outlining a penalty handed down at Talladega. NASCAR’s statement is as follows: “The No. 46 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR required rules); and 20-2.3A (unapproved added weight location and unapproved added weight — lower A-frames were filled with weight pellets) of the 2010 NASCAR rule book. Crew chief Thomas Tucker has been fined $50,000 and indefinitely suspended from NASCAR. Car chief Richard Boga and team manager Tony Furr have also been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR. Driver Michael McDowell and car owner Dusty Whitney have been penalized with the loss of 50 driver and owner points, respectively.” Huh, someone got caught cheating and NASCAR issued a penalty. Interesting.

Wait, what?

50 driver and owner points? $50,000 fine? Indefinite suspension (which, dollars to donuts means until the end of the year)? Really?

It was just seven races ago that Clint Bowyer was docked 150 points, the team fined $150,000, and crew chief Shane Wilson suspended for six weeks for a frame rail mount that was a fraction of a fraction of an inch outside of NASCAR’s tolerance. Though the fine was later reduced, the points penalty was not, resulting in Bowyer languishing at the back of the Chase field despite having won more Chase races in 2010 than any other driver.

After being caught with illegal weight in the frame of the 46 car last week at Talladega, the penalties given to Whitney Motorsports were surprisingly light.

And a team caught blatantly cheating (Filling the frame with pellets is about the oldest trick in the book that you can still use. And there is no reason to do it except to make the car lighter when it is removed. A lighter car is faster and therefore has an advantage during a race) was given a third of the penalty that Bowyer’s team was? Really?

I don’t have an issue with the penalty issued to Bowyer’s team. I do have a problem with this mess.

Remember when fans came down on NASCAR for penalizing owner/driver Carl Long after the All-Star event for an illegal engine? The general outcry was that the engine could have been damaged during the race, and that the penalty was so harsh that it nearly put Long out of racing altogether. I can’t say for sure that ts the result of that, but if it is, shame on NASCAR. I’m all for NASCAR doing anything and everything to help out the smaller teams like Whitney Motorsports make it in the sport. Everything except this.

Part of NASCAR’s justification may be that the violation was discovered in opening technical inspection and not after the race. But if that’s the case, why was the car ever allowed to make a qualifying run? In 2007, when the cars of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson failed opening tech for a template violation, neither driver was allowed to practice or qualify his car, a penalty which NASCAR has never imposed since. A template violation is an effort to skirt the rules, to be sure. But buckshot in the A-frame? That’s not skirting the rules, that’s throwing them in the trash can. Given that, why on earth was the same penalty not imposed on McDowell’s team at Talladega?

Had the No. 46 not been allowed to qualify, McDowell would have missed the race. Based on his 35th-place finish, that would have cost him $71,025 and 58 points. Added to the postrace penalty, the resulting $121,025/108 point fine still doesn’t touch Bowyer’s. As it stands, a team brought a car to the track that was purposely built illegally and was barely given a slap on the wrist, where Bowyer (along with Gordon and Johnson in 2007) had the book thrown at him for something that may or may not have been a deliberate attempt to break NASCAR’s rules.

With their credibility at an all-time low, the sanctioning body can ill afford to flaunt the inconsistency they showed with this latest penalty. Not only was it wildly inconsistent with recent penalties handed down, but after the penalty on Bowyer, NASCAR came out and said that the penalty next time would be harsher. Yet, when next time rolled around, they backed off and gave a slap on the wrist. One can only imagine what a slap in the face that is to Clint Bowyer and his team. It’s also a slap in the face to race fans-NASCAR must not think fans are very bright if they think nobody is going to notice that they let blatant cheating slide just weeks after a heavy penalty was issued for a far less ostentatious bending of the rules.

Fans aren’t asking for much in this type of situation, just consistency. A fan should be able to look at a situation and know about how the sanctioning body is going to handle it-at least within the ballpark. But NASCAR has, once again, proven that they aren’t trustworthy in the one area that then need to be the most. Often, NASCAR is accused of playing favorites, but that’s not even the case here. They haven’t done anything else to help out the small teams like Whitney, are we really to believe they’re planning to start now? And even if that is the case, this is completely the wrong place and time to start. While McDowell qualified 15th on Saturday (in a legal car), three drivers who didn’t have blatant rule violations on their cars went home. Add to that that a less blatant template violation has led to drivers not being allowed to qualify, and you have to wonder why the No. 46 was even in Sunday’s race. And why, when all was said and done, the penalty didn’t equal the crime. Not even close. If NASCAR is wondering why its credibility is suffering with fans, situations like this one are a prime example.

NASCAR actually had a golden opportunity this weekend to do exactly what they had set precedent for (not allowing the No. 46 to make a qualifying run) and have even said would happen (bigger penalties going forward from Bowyer’s violation). Instead of using the opportunity to show fans that they can, in fact, enforce the rules fairy and consistently, they once again showed that they do not. In reality, NASCAR never has been described as fair or consistent, but given their current situation, a tenuous hold on the empire they once had within their grasp, this time they can’t afford to play the liar.

Contact Amy Henderson

Friday on the Frontstretch:
A Sneak Peek At The Future: What NASCAR Could Look Like In 2011
Driven To The Past: Two More Old Friends Gone…
Tearing Apart The Trucks: Kligerman Set To Make Debut, More News ‘N’ Notes
Nuts For Nationwide: The Top 10 Moments Of The 2010 Season … Two Weeks Early

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


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Voice of Reason
11/05/2010 12:59 AM

Amy – I had been waiting all week to hear just how big of a penalty NASCAR was going to put on the #46. I thought it would dwarf Bowyer’s, since afterall this was one of the oldest and absolutely most blatant rule violations we’d heard of in years. It is simply impossible for those pellets to be accidental, obviously. So I waited anxiously all week .. and then I saw it. $50k and 50 points. WHAT??? I’d have sooner expected $500K and 500 points, seriously! This has totally appalled me. I have been telling everybody for a while that there is still hope, but this may be the nail in the coffin. Carl Long’s fines horrified me. But, to give an ounce of credit, they were reasonably consistent if even too harsh fining away since that point. But this is a serious failure. I believe this damages NASCAR’s credibility beyond any hope of repair at least until they have a full turn-over of the top officials. Madness. Anyway, great article. So glad you called them out on this. None of the other sites are even mentioning it.

11/05/2010 01:54 AM

Remember, the 46 team was fined after the same race as Bowyer’s fine. After New Hampshire the 46 was docked $50k, 50 points and crew chief Jeremy LaFaver suspended for 6 weeks.

11/05/2010 05:20 AM

Was this inconsistent to Bowyer’s penalty, or is it the other way around?

Besides the indefinite suspensions, this is more in line with what penalty Clint Chin’s team SHOULD have gotten.

11/05/2010 09:27 AM

I agree about inconsistency, and wonder why nascar took driveshaft cover from the 48 and then days later said there were cracks in it. If it was only for cracks why did nascar take it instead of just telling them to replace the cover.

MJR in Springfield Va
11/05/2010 09:52 AM

This is the most obvious statement that can be made: The only consistency in NA$CAR as of late is their ability of being inconsistent in all matters large and small.

11/05/2010 10:45 AM

Credibility and na$car hasn’t belonged in the same sentence for years.
I agree with an earlier poster that the Bowyer penalty is the one way out of line.
If na$car would have put large penalties against the 46 all that would have been heard is the Carl Long style crying.
These are the type of issues that haunt you when inconsistent is one of your key operating priciples.

11/05/2010 10:59 AM

Why is anyone surprised. NASCAR hasn’t been a consistent regulatory function for years. Don’t expect them to start being consistent or having clear black and white rules now.

11/05/2010 11:16 AM

EZ, I agree with you about na$car (and even NASCAR) having been inconsistent in penalty enforcement since 1949.
I have never understood why they refuse to publish a list of infractions and their penalties. All stick and ball sports say, “if you violate this rule, your penalty will be (insert penalty here)” Of course referees still get calls wrong, but at least teams play on a level field, pun intended.
If na$car wants to adopt rules from the stick and ball sports, they should choose the ones that would lend credibility to the organization, and not the ones that make the sport into a laughing stock on the national stage.

phil h
11/05/2010 11:37 AM

I don’t know why anyone would be shocked? This is vintage Nascar!

x-na$car fan
11/05/2010 12:39 PM

The biggest reason Na$car didn’t fine him more is because he’s in a fight for the top 35 & that would help pad the points to make sure Robby G stays in the top 35 & NaScar would like nothing more than to see him booted out of the top 35.

Michael in SoCal
11/05/2010 12:44 PM

Not surprised by this inconsistency at all. Which is truly unfortunate.

But on a different note, the new nose on the Dodge COT looks dang sweet!

11/05/2010 12:58 PM

Sure is hard to put NASCAR and fairness in the same sentence.

11/05/2010 01:41 PM

Although I too was surprised by the seeming inconsistency of the most recent penalty I actually think it was a fair decision. NASCAR in deciding such things is much like a judge in a court of law. They have discretion to match the crime to the circumstances and the standing of the defendant. Does $50,000 to Whitney Motorsports make an impact? Absolutely. Would $50,000 to RCR make an impact? Probabley not. A $150,000 plus the points definitely got there attention. So I guess unlike most commenters and Amy I believe inconsistency is not a bad thing sometime. Now if they would just reduce or forgive Carl Long’s penalty they would show true wisdom.

11/05/2010 02:21 PM

My dictionary shows the definition of “inconsistancy” as “the inability to be consistant. See: NASCAR, Brian France, Mike Helton.”
Jacob: Big Top Brian obviously needs a book of infractions and penalties to refer to since he can't seem to be consistant. They also need to publish the rule book for all to read like F1, Indycar, WoO, etc. FordFan: I see your point, but flip side is NA$CAR so wants to a stick and ball sport. Stick and ball sports don’t adjust the penalties levied against the teams according to the team owner’s wealth.

x-na$car fan
11/05/2010 02:57 PM

So want warrented sure a huge penalty to Carl Long? It wasn’t even a real race & defineitly not intentional.

11/05/2010 03:37 PM

x-nascar fan, Nascar must have some kind of interest in not penalizing them further. I can’t figure it out but I’m sure its something that benefits them. While the Robby Gordon theory is a good one, the 46 is way too far back for it to matter at this point. Barring a monumental colapse, Robby appears to be safe for the first 5 races of 2011, unless Nascar changes the rule.

What baffles me is they got penalized 6 races ago and Nascar gave them the same penalty as the last one. Why not lower the boom this time? There is definate merit to Amy’s article, but most Nascar fans already know Nascar is consistent at being inconsistent

11/08/2010 12:02 AM

Well, go back to when the 48 got busted at Daytona for the mechanism that bowed out the back window. That car still competed and won the race. NASCAR penalties are handed down with the first thought being “how can NASCAR benefit from this?”


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