The Frontstretch: What's Vexing Vito: Carl Long's Suspension and Fines A Cover Up For Mayfield Drug Test Fiasco? by Vito Pugliese -- Thursday May 21, 2009

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Do any of you remember that Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman movie Wag The Dog?

The plot of the movie was that in order to cover up a sex scandal involving the President prior to an election, a Hollywood producer comes up with a plan to fabricate a fictional war on television, keeping the scandal off the front page of the paper and deflecting public attention from it. Truth apparently is stranger than fiction and life imitates art — Bill Clinton essentially did the same thing a year later after it was discovered that he had a thing for thick chicks in blue dresses and cigars.

Hear about Jeremy Mayfield on Wednesday? No, not at all … and Carl Long was a big reason why.

Anyways, you get my point. Now, fast forward a decade later, and the same thing appears to be happening in NASCAR. Wednesday, it was announced that perennial powerhouse Carl Long and his No. 46 “juggernaut” had been suspended for the next 12 weeks after it was discovered the engine in his car exceeded the 358 cubic inch limit for the Sprint Showdown, a qualifying event to determine who would transfer into the All-Star Race. In addition to the suspension, Long was fined 200 driver and owner points, with crew chief Charles Swing hit with a $200,000 surcharge for trying to be so underhanded as to cheat his way into the show.

Thank God. I mean, after running those three laps, Long very well could have comprised the integrity of the sport. That is, of course, if the sport actua… never mind.

Meanwhile, there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in that NASCAR decided to tear down Long’s car and publish their findings four days later. After all, the sport does make a regular habit of randomly selecting cars to tear down in post-race inspection. It’s just … they usually choose the winner, not a small privateer that hasn’t made an actual points-paying start in three years, and whose $5,000 share of the purse might have covered his tire and fuel bill for the two minutes he was actually out on the racetrack.

What is even more bizarre and wildly ironic is that Long’s heinous actions that are so detrimental to stock car racing they warranted the vigorous debt of nearly a quarter of a million dollars came within hours of the word that Jeremy Mayfield has retained legal counsel. Also released Wednesday was news he’s seeking the release of his toxicology report following an indefinite suspension from a reportedly failed drug test for a yet undisclosed substance – one that Mayfield so vehemently denies having no knowledge of.

Wow! That is amazing! So much news happening on a Wednesday with such little else going on!

From what information has been released to the public to date, we can surmise that Mayfield was apparently suspended forever for using nothing. We still have no clue what he was bounced for, and he maintains he was never told what the illicit substance was. NASCAR replied that they did tell him – but then said if he wants to know, he can request the report from them. Yet two days before all of this hit the fan, Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez was suspended for taking gonadotropins LH and HCG. These are female fertility hormones that can also be used following a steroid cycle, which can help jumpstart the male body to start regenerating its own testosterone again, as excess supplanted testosterone in the body will shut down that part of the endocrine system.

We knew all this because we were told … by the parties involved … within the first 48 hours of the announcement.

Now, if NASCAR is seriously trying to be like stick and ball sports — which it so blatantly is – how about coming out and offering a detailed report just like Major League Baseball did? That way, there is no doubt or cloud of suspicion and innuendo surrounding what substance was abused?

But instead of doing that, we get handed the breaking news horror of Carl Long’s “indiscretion.” Suddenly, a man who to date is best known for selling his ride to Darrell Waltrip prior to the 2000 Coca-Cola 600 and somehow managing to barrel roll down the length of the backstretch at Rockingham in 2004 is staring blankly at a three month suspension. It’s a benching that could really hurt him; that is, if he actually competed in the series to begin with. Instead, the penalty took away points Long doesn’t have, fined him money that was never earned, and … kept him from what, exactly?

It also probably doesn’t help that days earlier, NASCAR Czar Brian France offered his latest disjointed and incongruent State of the Sport speech. Along with claiming that website traffic was up – when our own Tom Bowles on Wednesday in his Did You Notice? column presented data that contradicts this claim – France reaffirmed the legitimacy and virtues of NASCAR’s substance abuse policy… whatever those substances and policies may be.

Now, I know I’m no David Caruso – and not just because I’m not pale, don’t have red hair, or am a really, really bad actor – but this is one case that’s pretty easy to crack by looking at it for about as long as Carl Long’s 358+ CID boat anchor held together Saturday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. This appears to be little more than subterfuge at its worst, right up there with wagging the dog and blowing up tents and aspirin factories.

There is an old adage that says that the best place to hide sometimes is right out in plain sight.

Memo to Brian France and NASCAR: You’re doing it wrong.

Contact Vito Pugliese

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midasmicah
05/21/2009 06:48 AM
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I didn’t think nas$car could make themselves look any worse, but somehow they’ve manged. Carl Long??? I’ll say this again. They do not go after the big names. Like a school yard bully, they go after the small frys. Take this and the Mayield fiasco and you wonder if they could possibly make themselves look any more arrogent.

Ed
05/21/2009 07:16 AM
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Of course NAXCAR has to punish Carl Long severely. After all, it can look tough, enforce the “rules,” and not cause a major sponsor to lose a penny. It a win-win, right? As for Mayfield, I hope that he is right and that NAXCAR and France have to run squealing like a pig. I think their drug “policy” is just like the “rules.” Unwritten. Mayfield is probably being used as an example to make fans think that NAXCAR actually has a drug policy and enforces it.

M.B. Voelker
05/21/2009 08:38 AM
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You’ve covered Nascar this long without noticing that Nascar always inspects a failed engine?

The reasoning is, of course, to prevent teams from using one engine for practice and qualifying then pretending it failed in order to install a fresh, new, unworn engine for the race — with all the obvious advantages that would provide.

Additionally, a couple years ago, Nascar started inspecting the back of the qualifying pack — after being tipped off that backmarker teams were highly motivated to cheat like crazy to make races and get those coveted top-35 positions.

And you Frontstretch writers were right there blasting Nascar for not having inspected those cars in the first place.

Your collective determination to blame Nascar for everything short of the swine flu outbreak is making you guys sound like Pelosi on waterboarding.

Vito Pugliese FS-Staff
05/21/2009 08:46 AM
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…yeah, Carl Long looked like a real threat to upset the applecart Saturday night. A guy who has failed to qualify for races for going on three years. Why is a back marker being fined points in a non-points paying race, where he eaned $5,000 to bring out a caution flag?

This coupled with the timing of the penalty announcment….some four days later….come on.

Overa88ted
05/21/2009 09:26 AM
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Darrell Waltrip should step up and pay the $200,000 fine for the team that helped him “save face “ a few years back. Come on Darrel, spend some of that $$$ you earned from the “PIMP MY GOPHER” sales on foxsports and the DW store!

Travis
05/21/2009 10:22 AM
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CRAPCAR is just trying to stockpile money from anywhere it can, because even Brian, the idiot crown prince who became king, can see that they will be paying Jeremy a ton of money.

Ryan
05/21/2009 10:59 AM
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I love how if nascar actually enforces the rules, people get pissed, and when they don’t, people get pissed. No wonder they aren’t consistent, the fans and media demand inconsistency.

Keith
05/21/2009 12:25 PM
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Another reason I don’t watch or go to anymore races. This Brian France guy has got to go.

Bill B
05/21/2009 12:26 PM
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M.B. Voelker.
Funny you should mention the swine flu. Funny how NASCAR decided not to put Mexico on the schedule this year in the Nationwide series. Maybe they knew about this swine flu back in 2008 when the schedule was drawn up. And if they knew then maybe they planted that flu virus so that they wouldn’t receive any negative anti-Mexican accusations in the new diversity driven NASCAR.

Jeremy
05/21/2009 03:18 PM
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Just because Carl Long couldn’t put a competitive ride on the track does not mean he has any more right to break a rule than Hendrick or Roush. The bottom line: The engine is too big. Whether it’s .17 or 170 cubic inches too big and whether it appears to be intentional or not, it does not matter. When a rule is broken, the violator, no matter who they are or what circumstance they’re in, must be punished. Like what Ryan said, is it not what you guys have been asking NASCAR to do all along? Why then are you guys flip-flopping on your stance just because the violator is a poor little cash-strapped one-car team?

Btw, NASCAR has always announced penalties for broken rules on Tuesday or Wednesday after the race weekend, so I don’t see anything out of the ordinary with the timing of the announcement.

Adam
05/21/2009 05:37 PM
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NASCAR does always announce penalties for rules violations on Tuesday or Wednesday, but the difference is they annouce that a violation or rule has been broken usually right away after/before a race,when it happens. Letting everyone know that a penalty is forthcoming, nobody until the penalty was annoucned even knew that Carl Long engine had failed inspection. As far as I know? I think that is what the author is saying that is a little suspect?

Doug Scholl
05/21/2009 05:39 PM
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Just everyone get used to the term “acceptable loss”

Evan Oslund
05/21/2009 07:44 PM
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I’m really curious as to who the two people are that voted “Yes! He broke the rules and it’s about time…” …just so I can punch them in the face. It was a ludicrous yet aptly-placed-for-NASCAR penalty that never should have been that harsh.

djones
05/21/2009 09:11 PM
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I’m with Vito on this one.
Carl is a true under funded racer. They could’ve fined him $100K and 100 points (standard numbers) and it would still kill him.
What happens when a big name’s engine is out of spec? Now the teams know what it’s going to cost them.
@ Bill B, too funny.

dawg
05/21/2009 10:25 PM
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A Few years ago, the 48 showed up at Daytona with a trick rear window. somehow the window changed position at speed, giving the car an advantage. This was an elaborately thought out attempt to cheat. No mistake, no grey area. Just no excuses cheating. If memory serves, Chad was suspended HMS, & JJ lost some points, & the 48 won the race. NA$CAR does seem to like to jump on the little guys, don’t they? Had this been a name driver, with a name sponsor, I wonder how they would have handled this? Ask King Richard about his 200th, & last win. All this in a non points race.

Bill B
05/21/2009 10:35 PM
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Jimmy and Chad’s rule infraction occurred prior to the COT. I don’t think it’s a secret that penalties have gotten much harsher and costly since the COT. So comparing penalties before and after the COT isn’t really relevant. I voted that the penalty was too harsh but would it have been too harsh if it was HMS or Roush. If you think not then you are asking NASCAR to gauge penalties based on the funding the team has. That’s a real splippery slope to let NASCAR decide.

uh
05/21/2009 11:51 PM
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“Instead, the penalty took away points Long doesn’t have, fined him money that was never earned, and … kept him from what, exactly?”

Kept him from his day job! He works in NASCAR, and he can’t earn any of that money if he can’t be at the track!

scott b
05/22/2009 12:31 AM
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I agree penalties are in order. The question is, why choose this moment to ramp them up to levels that have no historic precedent? The only logical answer to that is “to really make an example out of him.”

NASCAR doesn’t want short field, they don’t want obvious start and parks, and they do this to a team that is actually trying to go the distance in the few events they can afford to enter. No sense to it.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
05/22/2009 02:49 AM
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Statement from Carl Long found on Carl-Long.com:

“First of all I would like to wish Charles Swing, my crew chief, well. Since this incident he was admitted Monday night to a Georgia hospital with heart problems. He is a stay at home dad who loves to go racing.

We purchased an engine from a reputable builder at the beginning of the season.

We overheated the engine in practice and had to change it.

We had the option to withdraw and go home before admitting it to inspection. Trusting that our blown engine wouldn’t have any problems passing NASCAR tech, we submitted it and put our other motor in the car to get ready for the Showdown.

As everyone knows it didn’t pass tech. The rules are 358 cubic inches and ours is 358.17 cubic inches. The .17 is as wrong as if it would have been 400 cubic inches.

This engine is 50 horsepower less than top teams but it was all that could be afforded. I would have never knowingly went to the race track with a big engine!

This suspension has not only stopped me from racing, it has also hurt me with my everyday job. It’s hard to make a living working at the race track when NASCAR will not let you in. I can only hope that the appeal board will see things differently than the ones that came up with this penalty.

I don’t consider myself a cheater. I am addicted to the worse drug ever…racing! Every dime we have been able to scrape up, we use to race, because we love the sport.

It takes about a half million in equipment to be able to build an engine, so I have to rely on other people and this time it bit me.

Thanks for supporting me in wherever this goes!”

.17 cubic inches. If anybody who knows ANYTHING remotely about engines will understand how jaw-droppingly rediculous is.

Down 50 horsepower…you might as well pull off a plug wire to lay down those kind of numbers.

This isn’t about fines or penalties…it’s about taking your eye off the ball from the drug suspension issue.

Which judging form most of the comments here, it’s exactly what is happening.

Ryan
05/22/2009 08:28 AM
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So is your official position, Vito, that you do not want Nascar to enforce their engine rules? Is that what you are saying?

Mattswad
05/22/2009 10:12 AM
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Vito, you make it sound like Carl is 0-for-100+ races in Qualifying attempts. I think he may have attempted to qualify for maybe 5 (tops) races (3 of those being the Daytona 500) since he made his last race driving for Front Row Motorsports several years back. Not sure if you meant it to sound slanderous, but it does.

Also, he did not “bring out the caution flag” in the Shootout as you said. His (second) motor blew up after the field had taken the caution flag.

(just FYI) ;-)

Ryan, NO ONE is saying that rules shouldn’t be enforced for underdogs. Yes, there was a violation and yes, I’m sure EVERYONE agrees that there should be a penalty of some sorts.

However, the largest penalty EVER imposed by NA$CAR doesn’t really seem appropriate to most people considering the situation.

Carl WILLINGLY gave up his engine to NA$CAR for inspection after practice. (he could have withdrew at that point and not had to endure an inspection) He was also only 31st fastest in practice speeds.

So it wasn’t like he was up at the top of the charts, blowing everyone away with a jet-fuel motor.

To me, its monetarily/comparatively like arresting a homeless man for loitering and sticking him with a million dollar bond, while a wealthy businessman goes around carelessly shooting people because he knows he has the protection of a GOOD lawyer.

Make the punishment fit the crime. That’s all most folks are asking.

They sure didn’t have a problem with Richard Petty having the equivelent of a V-14 under his hood for his 200th win at Daytona in 1984.

Evil $$$$$$$$$$

Ryan
05/22/2009 10:23 AM
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Nascar said they would step up penalties to stop cheating. Truex got hit with 150 last summer. Long got hit with 200 this year. Sounds like a step up to me.

Bottom line is, don’t show up with an illegal engine or car. The next genius to try it is going to get tagged with 250 points.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
05/23/2009 01:17 AM
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Ryan –

Yes. I want NASCAR to impose record breaking rules on a guy who barely runs the series, when his car has .17 more Cubic inches due to expansion caused by overheating reducing it to junk, the same day a whirlwind is swirling from the crap-storm created by a driver who is preparing legal action against the sanctioning body regarding a questionable drug test.

As a fan and observer of the sport covering three decades, that is exactly what I want.

Contact Vito Pugliese