The Frontstretch: The Best Of The Frontstretch : Tearing Apart The Trucks : Fike's Fall From Grace by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Wednesday January 23, 2008

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Editor’s Note : With Speedweeks just around the corner, there’s an opportunity to take one last look at 2007 before moving forward. And that means we have a chance to honor the fantastic men and women that make this site tick – our talented staff of 19 writers who work hard each day to give the latest and greatest NASCAR news, information, and commentary. Our staff’s passion for this sport is unwavering, and their dedication unmatched – it’s because of them viewership for the site has more than doubled over the past year, even in the face of increasing concerns about declining TV Ratings and fan support. People may not like the direction the sport may be headed – but based on the numbers, it’s through the hard work of our Frontstretch staff that more people are coming here for a daily stock car fix.

So, in their honor, we present to you a special “Best Of” week, chronicling the best articles our staff presented to you in 2007. They’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you cry, and most of all, they’ll make you think – and hopefully, they’ll make your day just a little bit better. Enjoy, and look forward to bigger and better things to come as we head towards 2008!

This article was originally published July 11th, 2007.

The drivers of the Craftsman Truck Series got a break this past weekend, and while some drivers spent that time resting and relaxing, others spent it capturing headlines. Aaron Fike was arrested Saturday night with lady friend Cassandra Davidson at Kings Island after the park reported Fike’s SUV as suspicious. Fike tried to drive away when the Mason City Police Department approached the vehicle, but another officer pulled in front, forcing him to stop. After a thorough search of the car, the two offenders were taken into custody and arrested after officers found heroin, syringes, and spoons with residue stashed inside. According to police, Fike admitted taking the drug; if that’s true, those words will cause another promising Truck Series career path to be flushed down the tubes.

NASCAR’s substance abuse policy was instituted in 1988, and it’s pretty straight forward. NASCAR may conduct random drug tests on a whim; if a driver refuses to take the test, he is suspended until he passes, giving NASCAR a reason to consider allowing him to return to the track. However, if he fails the test outright, he is immediately suspended, offered a treatment plan, and considered for reinstatement only after completing his recovery under the watchful eyes of NASCAR. Although it will consider lifting a suspension, NASCAR officials have said there is one rule they will not bend : a three strikes and you’re out policy.

Since its institution, NASCAR has suspended only a handful of drivers for this type of problem…but the list has been mounting in recent years. Perhaps the most memorable suspension concerns Shane Hmiel, who failed three different drug tests and has been banned permanently from any NASCAR-sanctioned event. Other offenders include Brian Rose, Jamie Skinner, Sammy Potashnick and Kevin Grubb. Grubb actually returned to NASCAR following his punishment but was suspended again, this time indefinitely, for refusing to submit to a random drug test. Most recently, Truck Series rookie Tyler Walker was suspended this year as a result of his failed drug test; after being released from his ride, he has not yet requested reinstatement into the series. History can be a powerful tool in showcasing how not to repeat others’ mistakes; when will these young drivers start studying up before it’s too late?

When the first news came out that that Fike was arrested, I didn’t want to believe it. Fike currently leads the rookie points standings and sits 8th overall in the championship race. So far this season, Fike has four Top 10 finishes to go along with one Top 5, coming home a career-best 5th at the Memphis race June 30th. Oh, how quickly a driver on his way to the peak of the mountain can miss a step and fall back to the ground. Why would a young driver with a promising career risk it all for a drug? No one really knows the answer except him, and I’d rather not speculate.

NASCAR has currently suspended the driver of the No. 1 Toyota Tundra while investigations are under way. They are arranging a screening through their own resources, and when more concrete details emerge, they’ll simply decide Fike’s fate for themselves. Once they do, they should suspend him for a period of no less than a year while he completes a treatment plan and gets himself clean. Substance abuse in general is a bad thing…but heroin is even more dangerous. Everyone deserves a second chance because everyone makes mistakes; one can only hope that mistake wasn’t made on a race day for a driver whose races should have been about hard-charging action, not hiding addiction.

Although Aaron Fike and his lady friend were released on their own recognizance, David Green will pilot the No. 1 RFMS/Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra pending investigations by the Mason County Police Departmant and NASCAR. In the meantime, a preliminary hearing for Fike is scheduled for July 19th.

For his sake, I hope it all works out. Too many other careers have already been thrown down the ugly drain of drugs.

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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