One year ago, Chad Knaus was led from the track after the No. 48 car failed post-qualifying inspection at Daytona. This year, the No. 9 and No. 17 appear to have been found with similar aerodynamic infractions in post-qualifying inspection. Yet, for some reason, Robby Reiser and Kenny Francis have been allowed to stay in Daytona… they are working on their cars and preparing them for the Gatorade Duels until a final decision comes down on the rules infractions. How can NASCAR possibly consider this fair and equitable treatment?
If the rules violations are similar to the No. 48 infraction from last year, then Reiser and Francis should already be in North Carolina. The only question should simply be whether their suspension is four races or more? But instead, they are still in the garage at Daytona. Working on their cars, leading their teams like they do every race week. What kind of message is NASCAR sending with this decision?
Unfortunately, it is a difficult message to decipher. Could it be that Reiser and Francis have not had the track record for pushing the limits that Knaus is known for? If so, NASCAR is being too lenient. Or is it that Toyota had a rules infraction, too, with Michael Waltrip‘s car, and they’re trying to figure out a way to keep from having to severely penalize their newest manufacturer in their very first weekend in the series? That theory, of course, would basically render all of their decisions totally, baseless and all of their credibility would be destroyed. The final thought is that Jack Roush has made such a stink about Toyota coming in and buying the series that NASCAR is trying to soften the blow, trying to avoid looking like they are picking on Roush any more than they have in the past. Whatever their reason, every day that Reiser and Francis are in the garage damages the credibility of NASCAR to enforce their rules fairly.
The greater question in this whole scenario is… what has happened to all of the NASCAR purists? Last year, there were people all but burning Chad Knaus in effigy. People were screaming that he should be banned from NASCAR, howling that there was no place in the sport for a cheater, and that his actions were more than just detrimental to the sport. Leading up to the race, the purists in both the press and the stands labeled him and undesirable element at best, one that should be stricken from the sport for all eternity. Now that these latest violations have come to light… where is the hue and cry for these two crew chiefs?
No one has been beating the drum to have Reiser and Francis ousted from the sport… every report that has been printed or broadcast has talked about how the decision has yet to be handed down. Everything has said that the qualifying times have been disallowed, and that seems like the extent of the penalties. If that is, in fact, the only penalty to be handed down, then there better be a loud cry from the masses that an injustice has been served on the entire sport.
There is no problem with working in the gray areas… that is a crew chief’s job. For example, the shock absorbers that the Hendrick cars used at Dover a few years ago were simply a stroke of genius, and they should be commended for engineering something so smart. But blatantly violating the rules is a whole different story. Reiser and Francis are responsible for the actions of their race teams. If their cars were presented for inspection with some device or configuration that was deemed to give them an unfair aerodynamic advantage, then they are in the same boat that Knaus was in last year. A device was engineered with the intent of circumventing the rules… not working in the gray area, but blatantly disregarding the rules. If that is the case, then Reiser and Francis should be watching the qualifying races and the Daytona 500 from their Barcoloungers in front of their plasma screens this week, and the next four or five races, too. It is completely irresponsible of NASCAR to treat them any less harshly than they did Chad Knaus last year. If anything, they should receive a larger fine and a longer suspension to attempt to further deter bending the rules in the future.
So, all of the purists from last year, it’s time to rise up and take action. The phone lines in Daytona should be lit up, there should be a protest going on outside of NASCAR headquarters, and a petition signing campaign should be underway all across the country. Simply put, it’s time to do everything possible to get the cheaters out of the sport. We’re waiting to hear from you, NASCAR purists… let’s not be hypocritical now.