The Frontstretch: 9/13/13: The Day NASCAR Lost Its Credibility by Matt Stallknecht -- Friday September 13, 2013

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9/13/13: The Day NASCAR Lost Its Credibility

Matt Stallknecht · Friday September 13, 2013


I didn’t think it was possible. Really, I didn’t. I have always been one to give NASCAR the benefit of the doubt when matters of the sanctioning body’s credibility and integrity came under fire by the media at-large.

When the masses attacked NASCAR for implementing the Chase, I defended the decision as an exciting new way to consistently deliver close points battles, and looked past the obvious pitfalls associated with such a system. When the fans started accusing NASCAR of using debris cautions to manufacture excitement in races, I argued that “there was always debris somewhere, better to be safe than sorry.”

When NASCAR debuted green-white-checkered finishes and double-file restarts, and the people said that such procedures hurt the integrity and pureness of the race, I said that such procedures were fair rule changes that could change the game.

Did Mike Helton, Brian France and Company go a step too far in overturning results on who would enter into this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup?

I’ve defended the merits of plate racing and questionable penalties that NASCAR has issued. I even defended NASCAR’s decision to boot Martin Truex, Jr. out of the Chase last week, and went as far as to say that NASCAR’s credibility was still intact.

Deep in my heart of hearts, I truly believed that many of the controversial decisions that NASCAR has made, and the countless rule changes that have been created over the years, were truly for the better of the sport. I have consistently given NASCAR my support.

That all changed yesterday.

I am done giving NASCAR “the benefit of the doubt.” What they did yesterday prevents them from earning my approval ever again and ruined their credibility as a sanctioning body. It’s gone now. Gone. And it’s going to take a whole lot of change to bring any bit of it back.

For those of you who aren’t following along at this point, the decision that has caused me to get so riled up is, of course, NASCAR’s move to add Jeff Gordon as an unprecedented 13th entry to the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Put simply, that very decision was quite possibly the most inane, frivolous, and downright idiotic move NASCAR has ever made. And it has the potential to ruin this once glorious racing series.

In what other sport does a sanctioning body have the power to simply add and subtract teams from the playoffs?

Not a single one.

NASCAR should not have the power to just arbitrarily play God, adjusting the playoffs on the fly in an attempt to rectify a decision.

NASCAR’s argument in this situation is that the circumstances created by MWR and Penske robbed Gordon of a rightful spot in the Chase, thus giving NASCAR justification to put Gordon into the Chase because it’s “just the right thing to do.”

This whole line of thought is absolutely wrought with fallacy. Yes, Gordon would have likely made the Chase had the caution not flew. But guess what?! Brad Keselowski could have just as easily driven into Chase position on that ensuing restart, just like Jeff Gordon could have made it in by the same token if X, Y, and Z didn’t happen.

Does that mean we should just give Keselowski a Chase spot, too? Of course not!

The reality is that, in this sport, in this gloriously zany and wild world of NASCAR, strange things are bound to happen. Teams will attempt to cheat the system. On-track officials will blow calls. Penalties will be made that are perhaps too severe or too lenient. These things are inevitable. Sometimes, the wackiness of a sport where 43 teams all compete against each other at once will lead to outcomes that are simply not fair to certain competitors.

In the case of Jeff Gordon, that is exactly what happened. A few rotten teams cheated, NASCAR blew the call, and the end result was a screwjob against Gordon. But that doesn’t give NASCAR carte blanche to just add and subtract teams from the points as they see fit.

It is staunchly against the spirit of competition to change an outcome after an outcome is finalized. It is also against the spirit of competition to change and make up rules as you go. NASCAR violated both of these principles by adding Gordon to the Chase. When a sanctioning body violates such rules, it forfeits its credibility, becoming another entity entirely, one that in many ways bears no resemblance to a sport at all.

I hesitate to say that the sport is doomed, or that NASCAR is going to cease to exist, but there is no question that the events of the past week have placed NASCAR at a serious crossroads in terms of the future health of the sport. Other sports leagues, along with their fans, will now look at NASCAR as something of a laughingstock, a league so devoid of true leadership that it will resort to changing outcomes and making up its own rules in an effort to create a perception of fairness. NASCAR has made its bed; it must now lie in it.

The road to gaining back their credibility will be arduous. It may take even more extreme measures to gain that all important trust back.

Perhaps this means the end of the Chase, that NASCAR must abolish the use of debris cautions or that it will require a total reconstruction of the sport. Whatever that fix is, NASCAR must wise up and find it quickly.

Can NASCAR actually learn from its mistakes? That is a question that can only be answered by the sands of time.

One thing remains certain for NASCAR: 9/13/13 will be a day that forever lives in infamy.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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Tom Dalfonzo
09/13/2013 11:49 PM

What honestly would Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., and Dale Earnhardt say to all of this?

09/14/2013 05:54 AM

Tom, what would Bill Senior and Junior have done? They both would have been at every race to police this garbage ALL THE TIME and not just show up once in a blue moon, and appear like they’ve been on a binge like Brian looked like yesterday. As for Dale Senior, well, had Senior not died, we would not have the chase, I firmly believe that! With all the decisions Brian has made, Senior would have retired and gone after the Presidency of NASCAR to make sure it survived. I was never a Senior fan, but he loved this sport, and would have done that to save it. He must be spinning in his grave!

By caving in to Gordon’s constant whining, I am even more convinced that Brian France is in Rick Hendrick’s pocket. Maybe the sanctioning body should just change its name to “HendriCAR”. I have never liked Jeff Gordon. I had the opportunity to meet him at Michigan two years ago and I found him to be rude and uppity. I came away wondering how anyone could be a fan of such a jerk! And people condemn me for being a Carl Edwards fan! As for Gordon, who is, without a doubt the biggest crybaby in the world (and who has trained Jimmie well, as he has become the second biggest crybaby), I sincerely hope he suffers premature engine failure early in each of the next ten races. Because if he really does win the Championship, it will be the biggest black eye on NASCAR ever, even more than three of Jimmie’s titles that are so tained with cheating that it’s not funny, and even more than if Bowyer wins the Championship after what he did last week. And it will be the final nail in NASCAR’s coffin that will finally drive this 52-year fan away for good.

Go Edwards, Biffle, and Logano!

09/14/2013 08:13 AM

This entire mess just shows the poor decision making involved in allowing multiple car teams and ‘satellite’ teams, much less the idea of having a playoff in which every team competes every week. Could we hope this kills the ‘chase’?

Fed Up
09/14/2013 09:21 AM

There is not one bit of difference in what MWR did and what Penske/FRR did. Brain Farce and Helton claimed there was not enough evidence. I guess they didn’t listen to the radio or see Gilleland roll over. Now Fox says they are keeping Waltrip because he was apologetic. Yes he was; for the third time in questionable actions. I couldn’t watch the truck race last night for hearing him and thinking of his pathetic actions. Thank goodness the NFL & MLB playoffs are on.

09/14/2013 09:52 AM

When Hendrick wins we the fans lose. I m tired of one team manipulating NA$CAR. This is embarrassing to our sport.

09/14/2013 10:07 AM

Gordon should turn down the 13th spot for the sake of the sport.

09/14/2013 10:27 AM

Gordon getting in may be the end result, but that’s hardly the reason NASCAR has lost its credibility. Their hands were tied once they penalized the wrong teams. Vickers team never should have been penalized for what they did. Once they did that they had no choice but to let Jeff back in (especially in light of the 22 team being allowed in after doing the exact same thing). NASCAR tried to play a smoke and mirrors show with the MWR penalties. If they had just drawn the hard line and docked Clint the 50 chase points (as well as kicking out the #56) they never would have had to let Jeff into the chase. They lost credibility when they didnt drop the hammer on the driver who started this whole mess.

09/14/2013 10:29 AM

My view on this entire ruckus centers on Bowyer. If the man just owned up to what he did…things may have not gotten to this point. If the media and fans want to center their anger..start there. NASCAR made a huge mistake not taking all MWR cars out of The Chase..sorry are guilty by association. With Bowyer gone they could move the next eligible driver in The Chase. That on its own would have settled everything. NASCAR said they couldn’t prove (cough cough wink wink) Bowyer spun on purpose..but they couldn’t prove the 22/38 fiasco either…but they went ahead and added Gordon. It looks like they are trying to solve the issues.. Trying to right the ship..trying to govern the sport..but they fell short. If BF had the authority to add Gordon.. He certainly had the authority to take out Bowyer…but evidently Monday when the call was announced BF wasn’t wearing his big boy panties.

09/14/2013 10:29 AM

After last weekend’s mess, I decided to just tune out. I don’t care now. I may change my mind when next season starts but for now I’m revoking my fan card.

09/14/2013 10:39 AM

NASCAR lost its credibility years ago when it decided that racing was enough and had to use gimmicks (playoff format, Lucky Dawg, debris cautions, etc.) to make its product interesting. But I think that what brought this latest scandal weren’t those gimmicks as much as the concept of NASCAR being a “team sport.” I think that while each car is comprised of a team, the line should be drawn there and not include the other cars competing under the banner of a single tem owner(s) and its satellite operations.

09/14/2013 11:43 AM

here i sit aghast, appalled and stunned at the outright stupidity and favoritism so clearly demonstrated by the “sanctioning body.” they have truly become the laughing stock of all motor sport. in fact they may have fallen out of the sport category altogether and fully cemented their place as an entertainment venue or a pastime, a traveling circus if you will where the drama is manufactured and the outcome is pretty much the same, only the venue is different.

as i read the news my first thought was of utter disbelief, i actually did a double take. then other thoughts flooded in like clearly this wasn’t the first time teams did slightly underhanded things to effect the finishing order or the points. why take a stand now? then i thought geez. gordon isn’t even running well enough to be in the top ten never mind having the consistency to win the championship (which is sort of farce any way.) why such a risky decision? to try use the decision and gordon’s popularity to garner some exposure. naaah. couldn’t be it. gordon’s popularity is waning and most of it lies with what has become the shrinking nascar core fan base who mostly doesn’t like the chase. he’s not attracting newcomers. and why attract such attention before a race almost sure to be a snooze fest. but wait, maybe that is it. the management is so out of touch with the market and present trends and they only remember the golden era. the marketers that they’ve hired to attract new fans aren’t getting the job done so they fall back on the iron fisted good ol boy philosophy what used to work? naah.. that’s just plain stupidity and bad management technique. then i hit the wall. i told myself this was it. strike three. fatlady – singing loud and clear. the divorce is final. i am done with this ludicrous organization. as i mulled the taste of that decision over, a familiar question surfaced. am i crying wolf? why is it so goddam hard to walk away from nascar? really…. why? they have done almost everything i can imagine to make you and me walk away and never return. why? tradition? comfort? is it because i love racing so much? is it because its easy just to turn on a tv or computer where going to a short track takes effort? is it because of the train wreck watching theory? why why why?

this is for sure though… my support and attention seriously wanes and i am now ashamed to be a nascar fan. there are a lot less of us in this closet than there used to be.

Glen H.
09/14/2013 12:09 PM

Just woke up and smelled the coffee, did you Matt? NASCAR has been manipulating the outcome of races for years, as have the teams. What happened at Richmond is just put a spotlight on it.

If NASCAR wanted to put things right, all they would have had to do is put Edwards down to the first car, one lap down, for jumping the restart and giving the win to Menard. That would’ve put Gordon, Legano and Newman all in the Chase and would have been the correct call since they messed up big time on the final restart.

09/14/2013 01:33 PM

Calling Matt McLaughlin

09/14/2013 01:44 PM

Glen H., I’m a Carl Edwards fan, which I have taken a lot of condemnation for being his fan. I had a rather inebriated Junior fan throw a cup full of bear on my Aflac jacket at Bristol in 2010 just because he hated Edwards so much! Then he pushed me over and I nearly fell down the stairs! And right now, reading all the psychotic hate that has been written about that restart, I find myself wishing that, when Carl did realise that Menard spun his tires, which Menard fully admitted that he did, Carl should have let off or even hit his brakes to let Menard catch up. But, Kurt Busch would have hammered the back of Edwards’ car, as he was coming on big time. Had Edwards done that, two thins would have happened. One is that everyone would have been happy, especially all the Edwards haters. Two, Kurt Busch would most likely have missed the Chase, but the big crybaby (Gordon) would have got in easily.

As it is now, this whole issue has become a great big pile of warm, smelly fecal matter! What is worse, Gordon will most likely win the Championship this year. And if that happens, I’m done with this sport for good! I hope Rick gets good value for his contribution to Brian’s bank account!

09/14/2013 02:40 PM

Upon further review NASCAR will now be known as HASCAR.

Brian should disappear to his real family on Honey Boo Boo. He has to be adopted.

Bill B
09/14/2013 03:48 PM

OK, let’s see…
The chase draws an arbitrary line in the dirt. If you miss the line you suck and lose millions of dollars. If you make it you’re great and gain a couple of million. That results in teams doing whatever they can to make it,,, whatever. And if you make it you get a bunch of points you didn’t earn.

Then you have the single point per spot system which makes the math so easy a first grader can figure out all the permutations to manipulate the points.

Then you have fake debris cautions and lucky dogs that allow Gordon back on the lead lap.

Then you have the wave around which allows Logano who is two laps down to get a free lap back and only be one lap down and therefore able to gain positions he would have never been able to get otherwise.

Then you have the double file restart which guarantees that the order will most likely get shuffled on a restart making spinning out on purpose worth a try if it looks like your teammate is going to come up a few points short if things end the way the run.

All these contrivances are supposed to make the racing more interesting by manufacturing exciting races for we fans (but most of us hate these manipulations).
Here we are at Richmond and all these forces converge in the last 7 laps of the race to create a total mess.

The cost of having so many questionable practices that create so many gray areas came due and all on the same day and NASCAR couldn’t pay.

And now we’re all surprised that this has turned into a comedy. Well, it’s about a lot more than Gordon being put in the chase. It’s about a set of rules that promote chaos and are impossible to police and apply consistent rulings.

And Matt S., in what other sport do 43 teams compete against each other at the same time in the same space. And in what sport are there 31 teams (now 30 this year) competing with those in the playoff.
We all try to compare NASCAR to other sports when we need an analogy but we also all know that this is why there should be no chase to begin with.

Sometimes being a NASCAR fan is tough. When my driver retires (who happens to be Gordon), I think I’ll retire as a fan.

I am bias for sure but I feel that if you want single Gordon out in this debacle as the straw that broke the camel’s back, then you need to just ask yourself one question… Did Clint spin out on purpose on not? If yes then Gordon should be in. If no then Gordon should be out.

Now that you’ve got that behind you the next question is how do we fix it so that nothing like this ever happens again. There are lot of factors above that could be removed to lessen the probability of chaos.

Damn, I wish I could have worked the GWC into this rant as also being on the table to remove from the rules.

09/14/2013 03:50 PM

I say the sad state of affairs is that this has been going on for years ACCEPTED, ALL TEAMS DO IT. Mike Helton himself said so, no rules to say you can’t. Now some teams are being labeled cheaters for the simple fact that one of Nascars golden HMS girls, was not the benefactor of that move. I agree this is the day that the Jeffy Rule ruined the sport. I don’t know how racing is going to look if Nascar is going to all of a sudden say its wrong to help out other teams. What will the race look like? This whole nonsense is a knee jerk reaction to clueless race watchers, not caring or understanding a lick of what they have been looking at every Sunday. They are now screaming foul, pathetic. Be careful who you call a cheater, one day its o.k. the next day its not and your driver could be labeled a cheater next, when in fact they are not. Shame on the media and HMS for fueling this non issue all for the sake of getting a sub par performing driver in the manipulated Chase. Sad day indeed.

09/14/2013 04:52 PM

This, in all seriousness, is what I hope happens tomorrow. When the green flag drops, everyone maintain their position, but everyone also move over and let Gordon, Johnson, Kahne, Junior, and Newman (because he is a Hendrick satellite driver) all go by. Then spend the rest of the race running in single file formation, and when the five NASCAR favorites approach from the rear, everyone let off the gas and let them all by again. Then, at the end of the race, when there are only five cars on the lead lap and the sixth place driver is the first car 10-laps down, see what The Brainless wonder has to say! And, I also hope that, if the drivers do that, by lap 15, the stands are empty and all the fans that are there are outside the Chicagoland Speedway ticket booths and offices demanding their money back! Thick Brian and Mike would notice? Naaaa!

09/14/2013 05:22 PM

After almost 40yrs.I am done with Cup racing. DONE Rick the former Felon can win every championship I will not care because I will not be watching what a joke

Matt Stallknecht
09/14/2013 05:40 PM

Thank you for the responses guys. I was surprised at the response to this piece, being a Saturday and all.

Needless to say, NASCAR has their work cut out for them going forward

09/14/2013 06:34 PM

After 35 years as a fan of Nascar, I can not believe what a joke it has become.

This is Twilight Zone stuff. I’ve been hanging on by my nails hoping for better days but it’s been more like a long, painful divorce.

09/14/2013 07:27 PM

Wanna bet that Old Jimmie’s bad luck is a thing past starting tomorrow..LOL. People screaming about manipulation and cheaters, better understand what they are crying about, but I don’t think they do. Its all part of the strategy people and you all just got suckered by HMSCAR..:)

09/14/2013 07:42 PM

Well Matt giving NA$CAR a pass for so long when THEY are the ones who have been manipulating outcomes forever was your decision and only you will have to live with it, however it does not say much when it comes to OBJECTIVE reporting. As for MWR, they did is the same thing that has been going on, again, forever. Most of the time it’s done better and many use different methods that aren’t as noticeable, but it’s been there. Due to just a few laps remaining it became very noticeable and all of sudden so may screaming bloody murder like they never have seen it before and under no instances have they ever done it before, which is a joke. Like Tony didn’t get any of the same kind of help a few years ago that helped him win 5 in a row, in very subtle fashion so it was not even noticeable. Like Hendrick teams don’t work together or with any satellite teams in any way. The worst offender is of course NA$CAR who on a weekly basis manipulate the outcome in the name of excitement. Didn’t Jeffy get one of those “in the knick of time yellows” that helped him get back in the game form two laps down, how did that happen, on it’s own, me thinks not. This all started when, and it wasn’t over nite, NA$CAR stopped being a sanctioning body staging a safe race and became a marketing giant staging a Manipulate Staged Entertainment Event. Any credibility they had was gone long ago. Everyone who looked at it OBJECTIVELY saw this long ago. That’s the elephant in the room. The reason why the stands are empty and no one, compared to years ago, even bother to watch it on TV. The Emperor Brian progressed it past anything anyone could have ever imagined. He has taken it down a road that has made it impossible to recover from. MWR did the same thing that has been going on forever, they had little time to work with and as a result, did it poorly. And now because of Hendricks close, tight relationship with the Emperor, Jeffey is in the Chase, which has been a JOKE since the day it began. Now MWR could loose all their sponsors and maybe put, what 300 people out of work all on the same day so that NA$CAR can claim they have integrity after all. RIP NA$CAR.

JD in NC
09/14/2013 08:09 PM

I think the time is ripe for someone else to create a new stock car series (Indycar maybe). To be run with cars much closer to stock, on non-ISC and non-SMI tracks, because Bruton is as big an a-hole as BZF is an idiot. Adopt a sensible rulebook with none of the current NASCAR incomprehensible stupidity. It might take a while but eventually such a new series would eat NASCAR’s lunch

another Andy D
09/14/2013 08:15 PM

There has always been some favoritism involved in NASCAR, but I remember how mad I used to be at DW driving around in last place, as I felt like he was just taking my money.
When JG gets to that point, I’m sure the CHASE will expand to the top 43.

09/14/2013 09:36 PM

Speaking of manipulating, it is funny how all I have to do is look at what make the Pace Car is to know if Kyle Busch will win that day. Like today. How much was it that Toyota paid NASCAR to get Wins?

09/14/2013 11:29 PM

Jim, you are 100% correct. You seem to be one of the few that get it. I am also disgusted by the hypocrisy of HMS..I am sure they brought that audio to Nascars attention and started the whole “cheater” thing. People are being manipulated and the sheep don’t have a clue. Very sad.

Jerry Smith
09/15/2013 08:23 AM

Matt, welcome ashore, heard you just got off the boat yesterday. While skeptical of HMS or other favoritism there simply isn’t enough evidence for me to be convinced. I am convinced that NASCAR manipulates races for the purpose of increased revenue. It is par for BF/MH to deflect the credibility issues to the race teams instead of taking responsibility. I will still watch the last 50 laps of races but I would never consider attending an event and would be embarrassed to wear any kind of NASCAR gear in public. Is it too late to get back on that boat? Fast cars, bright colors, pretty girls, prayers, national anthem, more cars finishing on the lead lap than ever, double file restarts every 50 laps, most competitive championships ever. Is there a 24 hour buffet on the boat?

09/15/2013 10:27 PM

Good one BabyD..again.

09/16/2013 11:31 AM

The whole thing boils down to the chase. If the chase didn’t exist, then there would be no need for any of this manipulation.

When the chase was first floated, the fans screamed at NA$CAR not to do it, but Brain Fart France, being a Legend in His Own Mind, thought he knew best, and began the long slow march toward the perfect storm of manipulation that happened at Richmond.

While adding Jeff may have been “the right thing to do” in this circumstance could be legitimately debatable, the Law of Unintended Consequences is just about certain to put NA$CAR in a contorted bind down the road.

The simplest, most obvious solution is to ditch the chase and eliminate ALL these issues in a single shot.

Ken S
09/16/2013 11:55 PM

I haven’t seen this much whining since my 5yo son got beat up by his sister. Guys, get a life. BF & MH don’t give a zip what you think. I’d bet every one of you will be back watch NASCAR on TV before chase ends this year. I disagree with the 24 being put in the chase, but now that he is there I think it would serve NASCAR right if the 24 won the championship. If I thought the whining here was bad, NASCAR would burn for sure then.