Cami Starr · Thursday July 13, 2006
I was having trouble thinking of a topic for this column so I started browsing through different NASCAR sites looking for news about the Busch Series. There were the usual stories about Buschwhackers, teams struggling to barely hang on, a few driver changes, but then something caught my eye. Two weeks ago Kevin Harvick's Busch Series crew chief was escorted from the track at Daytona and then suspended the following week for six races. It made me think back to the suspension of Chad Knaus in the Cup Series following the Daytona 500. I remember all of the debate and outrage people felt towards Jimmie Johnson, Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports. Then I started to wonder, why isn't there the same type of fan displeasure being voiced about Shane Wilson, Harvick and RCR?
Not that I'm advocating that people suddenly go crazy and start spouting off at the mouth. But when Knaus was fined, the team was blacklisted in many people's eyes and Knaus was labeled a cheater. Some fans went as far as saying that Knaus should be kicked out of the sport for good and many thought Johnson's win in the 500 should come with an asterisk, because there was just no way that car was legal.
Many people pointed to Knaus being a repeat offender as one of the biggest reasons to bash him. But it's not like Wilson's suspension at Daytona was the first time this year that he's felt the heavy hand of NASCAR for a rules infraction.
Back in April, Harvick's car failed post-race inspection when it was found to be too low. At that time, the standard monetary penalty and 25 point penalty were issued along with Wilson being placed on probation. There wasn't much fuss made about it then. Fast forward just eight races later and Wilson is in hot water again. He was escorted from the track at Daytona, much like Knaus back in February, and NASCAR hit him with a six race suspension that started with last Saturday's race at Chicagoland. So far there haven't been any major effects from Wilson not being on the pit box, since the team finished fourth last weekend.
Even with all of the penalties dished out to the team this year, Harvick still holds a nearly insurmountable 323 point lead over Carl Edwards. So why aren't fans raising a ruckus? Where is the talk that Harvick's Championship, if he should win it, will be tainted by the actions of his crew chief?
Is it because Wilson has been fairly quiet about his penalties where as Knaus got a reputation for being smug for dodging questions about bending the rules? Is it because the Busch Series has been relegated to a side note now thanks to the overwhelming number of Cup drivers in the series and the Championship isn't taken more seriously? Honestly, who really pays that much attention to the Busch Series points battle with Harvick being so dominant? Or is it simply the fact that Johnson, Knaus and Hendrick are hated by more fans?
So for the next five races, I will continue to ponder my question. And once the season ends, if Harvick does find himself holding the big trophy, will people even remember the problems and the scandal during the season? Or will it all quietly fade into the background?
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