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.
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 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 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.
About the author
Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.
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