NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Jeremy Mayfield’s “Dangerous Precedent” May Serve to Benefit the Sport

Anyone see where former U.S. Figure Skating champion Nicole Bobek was charged in a New Jersey court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine? (Anyone care?) Wonder if she’ll “follow the dangerous precedent” set forth by Jeremy Mayfield, his appeal, and the court’s subsequent injunction? Considering she’s been retired for awhile and already in jail, I guess she has no one to appeal to – besides the court itself.

All joking aside, I think we’re making a little much of the “dangerous precedent” theory. This is America, after all, where the judicial system is set up the way it is for a reason. If an individual in this sport or any other has been falsely accused or tries in vain to clear his or her name despite the fact they’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, let them challenge the system. In the end, it only stands to make the system stronger. Policies are improved, testing bolstered, regulations focused.

We may not know for a long while what the truth is in this instance, but it was only a matter of time before someone challenged the system – testing results have been challenged in every sport, regardless of how the policies differ. In the meantime, weaknesses have been exposed in the structure of a drug testing policy that is of paramount importance – weaknesses identified by a federal judge. The more the policy and procedure is questioned and dissected, the more thoroughly it can serve the sport going forward.

And before you give me a hard time about the figure skating thing, no, I don’t follow the sport. I do, however, read newspapers. And I’ve still got a little thing for Katarina Witt.

As for this week, let’s start with something you all are still enjoying – the Hall of Fame debate….

Q: Why is no one giving credence to the fact that many crew chiefs have been just as valuable in advancing and contributing to the sport as drivers, owners, and men like Bill France and Bill Jr.?

Dale Inman guided the King to seven championships, and he’s not even mentioned in the list of 25? That’s like the Pro Football Hall of Fame not inducting Vince Lombardi in his first year of eligibility. Everyone associated with the sport should be considered. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be limited to only certain “types” of participants. – Linda Wells, Detroit, MI

A: The first thing I’m gonna do is drag out that tired old cliché and go apples and oranges on ya for making the pro football/head coach and NASCAR/crew chief comparison. I see your point, Linda, but I’m not sold on that analogy or reasoning.

That said, and this is after a couple of weeks of digesting all the facts here (while attempting to not contradict myself from earlier columns), I’m of the opinion that the inaugural Hall of Fame class for any sport should include more than just five entrants. Since this particular sport has been alive and well for 61 years, I think it’d be best to use the first class as an “assumed class.”

What I mean by that is we have maybe 20 or 30 people that deserve to be in after all these years, so why limit the first group to just five? Expand this one class to 15 or 20 entrants, and you’ll have taken care of all the accepted names that will be in over the next 10 years anyway. Get the Petty/Earnhardt/France trio along with guys like Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Bill France Jr., Curtis Turner, David Pearson out of the way in one fell swoop so we can move along to those that merit debate.

I do like your thinking on Inman, Linda. There is something to be said for seven titles when you’re the guy supervising on a weekly basis. And thanks for a question that made me look at this issue from a different angle.

Q: I’ve read NASCAR’s press release on the 25 nominees for the Hall of Fame on Jayski. It says that voting will be done by members of NASCAR, former drivers, crew chiefs, media, etc. and name the 25 nominees. My question centers on who, exactly, is doing the voting? Was that list ever released or was that kept secret, too, like NASCAR likes to do? – Terri G.

A: The list was released back in April, Terri. It consists of the following nominating committee that drew up the list of 25 nominees:

Winston Kelley and Buz McKim from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. NASCAR representatives Brian France, Jim France, Paul Brooks, Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, Jim Hunter, Jerry Cook and Ken Clapp. Track owners and operators Lesa Kennedy, Clay Campbell, Bruton Smith, Ed Clark, Tony George, Denis McGlynn, Doc Mattioli, Dale Pinilis, Tom Blackwell, Jim and Barbara Cromarty, and Jim Williams.

And a voting panel that, along with the aforementioned group, will narrow the field to five. The voting panel consists of:

Mike Accavitti, Rick Allen, Dusty Brandel, Kenny Bruce, Duane Cross, Barry Dodson, Edsel Ford III, Harry Gant, Barney Hall, Mike Harris, Tom Higgins, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Mike Joy, Dustin Long, Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, Buddy Parrott, Jim Pedley, Ed Peper, Jerry Punch, Doug Rice, Ricky Rudd, Nate Ryan, Ernie Saxton, Bill Weber, Humpy Wheeler, Lee White and Waddell Wilson.

Q: Michael Waltrip Racing has come a long way in a short time, but do you think Martin Truex Jr. made the right move in jumping from EGR to Waltrip? Seems like a lateral move to me. I think Truex has potential, so MWR scored. – Shaun Jackson, Miss.

A: On the surface, the term “lateral” may seem appropriate, but I think Truex was thinking of his long-term viability in the sport. Let’s be honest here, there aren’t going to be many open seats for 2010. Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing – in the current economic environment, anyway – is looking more like a sinking ship than a lifeboat. I mean, didn’t those two groups have seven teams among them (not to mention the sport’s ultimate cash cow) just two years ago?

Anyway, in the press conference that introduced him as the new pilot of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota on Tuesday, Truex cited that he saw potential at MWR and an appealing environment. Both fair points. However, I can’t help but wonder if the security of a fully-funded car in one of the few organizations that isn’t in danger of dropping cars didn’t sway his thinking. The fact that Toyota isn’t filing for bankruptcy anytime soon didn’t hurt either, I’m sure. And let’s not overlook the improvement that organization has made in its two and half years of Cup existence.

MWR, in turn, got a super-marketable 29-year-old that should play the Felix Unger to Michael’s Oscar Madison to perfection. And Felix, err, Truex, has proven that when he’s in the right situation, he’s able to win a race or two and qualify for the Chase.

In short, a solid move for both MWR and Truex… although he would’ve fit the mold of a third Stewart-Haas pilot to a tee. That third car, though, does not yet exist.

Q: Matt, we’re going to Chicago and camping for the race this week, and I wondered about Route 66 Raceway. I haven’t been able to get information on whether they are running there this week. We will be there on Thursday afternoon. Any racing at the half-mile to fill the gaps? – Steve Harden, Indy

A: Sorry bud. The half-mile dirt track at Route 66 isn’t running again until July 25th. Looks like it’s horseshoes and grillin’ for you instead. And that’s not a bad thing.

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