Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday July 18, 2013
Should a team who fails post-qualifying inspection race anyway if they have a provisional spot available? Absolutely not. Qualifying is a competition, and competing with a car that’s not within NASCAR’s rules and had no parts failure should not “earn” them a place in the field. One team racing, post-cheating because they’re locked in via provisional doesn’t sound right if another one, with a perfectly legal car goes home without the chance to race on Sunday. But right now, that could happen at any Sprint Cup race where more than 43 cars show up. Based on the current rules, a team with a car earmarked as illegal could race while one who passed every inspection, all weekend goes home instead. That’s just not fair play.
No team with a legal car should ever have to watch a race on TV while another team is in it after having their qualifying time thrown out for a rules violation. Not ever, especially when failing tech for some teams would send them packing because they aren’t in line for a provisional. That’s right; you could also have two cars with the exact same post-qualifying violation during the same race week, yet one could be sent home while the other races. That’s a huge double standard, and it needs to stop. The rule simply needs to be the same for every team across the board… and the only way to do that is to send every one whose car isn’t legal after qualifying home.
Now there are times, like this past weekend at Loudon, where only 43 cars come to play, but here’s the problem with letting a driver start at the tail end in that situation, as NASCAR did with Jimmie Johnson on Sunday. If one team is sent packing when the field is full and another gets to race because it’s not, that’s not consistent, and goodness knows that NASCAR needs to be more consistent with its application of the rules. If there are 45 cars entered and, say, Mike Bliss would go home if his time was tossed out… well, then, so should Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Busch or Danica Patrick — any of the sport’s stars.
Yes, there would be a lot of angry fans under that scenario. That’s understandable, because many of them spend a great deal of time and money to see their favorites race. On the other hand, those disappointed people could be the best policing system the sport could ask for. The prospect of not being able to compete, and the fans it would have an effect on would be powerful incentive to ensure each team works to measure their car inside the rules.
Also, while those fans of a driver who had to leave early might be upset, what about the fans of those that didn’t break the rules? What about the fans of a driver who didn’t qualify for the race despite having a legal car? Do they count? This rule isn’t about playing favorites; it’s about the integrity of the sport overall, and sometimes to improve the entire process, one faction might be left unhappy. I suspect that the same fans complaining if their guy went home would be clamoring for another driver to miss the race if they didn’t like him. It’s just bigger than one driver or team.
Wait… what if something really does break, causing the car’s measurements to be outside of its standards? Teams should have the opportunity to show NASCAR the broken part in question, and race officials should carefully review it before making the call to throw out the qualifying time or to accept the broken part as the culprit, rather than any intent on the part of the team. Things do malfunction, and if someone can prove it’s an accident, not an intention they should be able to fix it and start the race. But if they can’t, they just shouldn’t be taking a spot away from another team.
Missing a race would be the ultimate penalty, and it’s a safe bet organizations would go out of their way to make sure a legal car completes the qualifying run in the future. When that happens, it only strengthens the integrity of the sport and ensures a more level playing field for every competitor. Fairness is what we’re after; in a year of controversial penalties, appeals, and final punishments it’s what the sport has struggled to achieve at times.
In the end, the only way to make sure that every team, no matter how large or small, is playing by the same rules and getting the same treatment is to take away any provisional “safety net” from a team whose car fails to meet NASCAR’s standards after qualifying. Sure, NASCAR could take points — but even if they took every one that team earned in a race, if someone with a legal car went home, the penalty wouldn’t make anything right. It’s really simple: no team whose car is legal should ever miss a race while one that didn’t qualify within spec makes the show. The only way to make a fair and equitable rule, across the board is to disqualify any team whose car doesn’t fit within the rules in post-qualifying inspection.
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