Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday May 10, 2006
As long time readers of this column know, I am a diehard Dale Jarrett supporter. I am not fanatical about Robert Yates Racing, and certainly not a fan at all of Ford…but I like Dale Jarrett.
The news of the penalties levied against Dale Jarrett, crew chief “Slugger” Labbe and Robert Yates this week really caught me by surprise. I might have been more prepared had I not missed the first half of last Saturday’s race, and noticed that Dale was starting at the rear of the field. My absence can be attributed to the fact that I, armed with a beverage, a handgun, and a plastic bag, was out hunting morel mushrooms and wild asparagus. (The beverage, when empty, provides a target for the handgun in case you are wondering.)
In columns past, while I have been very vociferous about certain teams and their tendency to be fined/docked points and suspended, I have also tried to be unbiased and hand down my rulings solely based on fact. Remaining unbiased hasn’t always been easy though because, much to my delight, the teams that seem to garner those headlines are ones that I have no love for anyway. This time however, the shoe is on the other foot. It is my favorite team in the headlines.
So, before some “previously insulted by Jeff Meyer fan” out there starts sending me email saying "Oh yeah!? What you got to say now, big boy?!", I will state my position regarding the No. 88 infractions.
The deduction of 25 driver points, while hard to swallow, is necessary. Same goes for the owner points deduction. Thanks to plenty of precedent pioneered mostly by teams I love to loathe, I’ve got to accept it. The suspension of the crew chief, however, is another thing entirely. All the necessary facts concerning the piece in question (a rear sway bar mounting) are, at this time, unavailable to us mere mortals, making it impossible to render an unbiased judgment. A continuance must be granted.
“Obviously, in this case, we interpreted the rules differently from NASCAR,’’ owner Robert Yates said. “But because of the lack of a clear-cut understanding on our part, we believe we have grounds for appeal and have started that process.’’
If future facts should reveal that this infraction is in fact an attempt at gaining an unfair advantage, (aka cheating!) then the crew chief should definitely be suspended. The real question, to me anyway, is WWRD? (What Will Robert Do?)
“If it was [an infraction] with a clear written rule against it, and he didn’t tell me about it, because I wouldn’t approve that, I’d have fired him, yes,’’ Yates said.
Don’t be misled; Robert isn’t talking about Labbe in the above quote. That is what Yates said in February about crew chiefs in general after Chad Knaus was thrown out of Daytona and suspended for 4 races.
As I said in the beginning, I have no special loyalty to Robert Yates just because he employs Dale Jarrett. I am a fan of the driver, not the organization. In my perfect world, Jarrett drives a Chevy. However the facts pan out, be it cheating or a simple "˜pushing of the envelope’, the proper decision by Robert Yates will go a long way in me becoming not only a Jarrett fan, but also a Yates fan.
I hate it when it’s my team under the gun! Good luck Robert…the NASCAR world is watching.
Stay off the wall,
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