This past weekend, Ross Chastain crossed the finish line first in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway, but he didn’t get to keep the trophy.
After Chastain’s No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet was found to be too low in post-race inspection, NASCAR stripped the team of the win and gave it to runner up Brett Moffitt. It marked the first time since 1996 that NASCAR took a win away, as the sanctioning body changed the rules this year to come down harder to teams that failed the post-race inspection.
Now that we’ve seen this penalty in action and how it affects a team and driver, hereʻs the question: Is this a rule that NASCAR should keep going forward into next year? Michael Massie and Clayton Caldwell debate.
If You Ain’t Cheatin’, You Ain’t Tryin’
Stripping a win away from someone just because they failed post-race inspection is too harsh of a penalty.
This penalty on Chastain was so harsh that Niece Motorsports owner Al Niece considered leaving NASCAR. Now, all of his sponsors, which a fairly new team struggles to get, have to deal with being associated with cheaters.
But did they really cheat? Or were they just pushing the limits just like every other team in the garage?
Throughout the history of NASCAR, the words cheating and racing have been partners with each other. Smokey Yunick put together a Hall of Fame-worthy resume with the reputation of finding gray areas in the rule book. Richard Petty certainly failed post-race inspection a time or two because of things Dale Inman and Maurice Petty were trying out. More recently, crew chief Chad Knaus missed races in two of Jimmie Johnson’s championship campaigns because he was suspended for pushing the boundaries of the rules.
But none of the people in those examples were stripped of wins or championships for their actions. Because when a car fails post-race inspection, it is unclear whether or not the out-of-line part gave the car a clear advantage.
A great example is Denny Hamlin‘s 2017 Southern 500 win. Hamlin didn’t win that race by cheating, he won with strategy. It looked like it was Martin Truex Jr.‘s race to lose, but Hamlin put on fresher tires at the end and flew by the Truex with three laps to go to win. After the race, Hamlin’s No. 11 failed inspection. But if his illegal car was really giving him an advantage, wouldn’t Hamlin have dominated every aspect of the race and not needed a differing strategy to win?
Most of the time, a car fails inspection by less than an inch. And this measurement comes after pre-qualifying and pre-race inspections in which they passed. So the only way a team could cheat would be something happening to the car during the race. Sure, a team could design a part that intentionally breaks during the race to make the car faster, but if they’re smart enough to figure out ways to do that, then why not let their genius shine? These crew chiefs, car chiefs and engineers are some of the smartest people on the planet. Why not celebrate their ingenuity instead of labeling it as cheating?
Instead, we’re now stripping wins after the fans have left and the champagne has been spilled. Moffitt is now credited with winning his first race with GMS Racing, but it comes without him leading a lap and without the team getting a formal victory lane celebration.
You don’t see wins get stripped in other professional sports. The New England Patriots didn’t lose any of their Super Bowls or wins after their numerous scandals over the past decade or so. The teams that benefited from players on steroids in Major League Baseball all got to keep their wins.
This is just another situation of NASCAR making too many rules and making it too hard for new fans to keep up with. When FOX Sports 1’s coverage of the Truck race at Iowa ended, Chastain was still the winner. It should have stayed that way. –Michael Massie
It’s Still The Right Call
One feel-good story of the Trucks season has been Chastain and his chase for the Truck Series championship. That’s why it was so painful for everyone to see what happened at Iowa on Sunday when Chastain became the first driver in the sport to be disqualified in NASCAR’s new post-race inspection procedure.
Listen, there is not a bigger Chastain fan than I am. I think the guy has a world of talent, and to see what he’s doing with Niece Motorsports this year is absolutely incredible. He’s having a tremendous year.
With that being said, the policy to disqualify a winner is still a good one. I cried for years that in this era with social media and the amount of technology we have that disqualifying a winner would not be a big deal. While there was a race directly after Chastain’s race, so it takes away the fact that fans would leave the racetrack not knowing who the actual winner was.
I will say this, I was naive to how long it would take to do a post-race inspection of the winner. It’s hard to do post-race inspection for a race winner since they have all their victory lane ceremonies — the interviews and victory lane pictures, plus all of the other media obligations.
However, Chastain’s truck was low, and according to some reports, it was really low, almost five inches. It stinks for the team and the driver, but that’s the way it goes. It doesn’t matter how the truck got low, the facts are it was low. Period.
What NASCAR can’t do is be a little hypocritical by coming out and saying that Chastain’s ride height was low while a winner blows out their rear corner panels, but their car still passes inspection. You have to be consistent and you have to have the rules make sense. If you don’t, then it’s pointless to continue doing this.
I always thought it was silly when a race winner was found to be out of tolerance and had a heavy fine and a lot of points taken away but got to keep the win. I always felt that was kind of dumb.
The process is right. The procedure is right. The people making these decisions need to be consistent and need to make sense in the future in order for NASCAR to seem legitimate. If they don’t, then the ‘same old NASCAR’ people will come out of the woodwork and they would certainly have a point. –Clayton Caldwell
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