NASCAR season is finally upon us. With baseball still months away, and football’s recent haitus we need something. Not to say that NASCAR is a consolation prize, I’m a big fan, but it is no baseball.
And with the Daytona 500 next Sunday we naturally have qualifying. Unfortunately this year two teams were caught "cheating" (they havn’t told their side of the story yet so I’ll refrain from calling it that). Apparently the 17 team of Kenseth, and the 9 team of Kahne drilled illegal holes in their cars to make them run faster.
If you will recall last season something similar happened with 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup winner Jimmie Johnson. His crew chief, Chad Knaus, made the car more aerodynamic, and as such was suspended for four races. But Jimmie won the 500, and better yet, (as previously stated) won the cup.
So now, within a year, three of the 10 most prominant teams in NASCAR have been caught "cheating". Herein lies my problem. I in no way condone cheating, or even "cheating". However Kasey Kahne is by far my favorite driver. Kasey switched crew chiefs recently, so perhaps it was the crew chief, and he had no idea about it, Jimmie didn’t get suspended last season.
I think that this kind of cheating is probably NASCAR’s equivalent of steriod use in baseball. But how would anyone propose to regulate these issues regarding an entire team.
It is often argued that NASCAR is not a team sport. However that is not the case. You have spotters, a crew chief, and a driver all in constant communication (I would know, I have a track scanner). Then you have your pit crew, one man messes up in the pit and you can lose valuable seconds, not to mention awards at the end of the year for least amount of time spent on pit row. Of course the driver gets most of the credit, he is like a quarterback, he plays the glory position.
But with that having been said how does one determine who is at fault for these violations? The Crew Chief will probably take the fall, as there was the precedent set last season that there will only be a four race suspension. But someone had to have drilled those holes. Other people had to have known. And what about those that didn’t how can you punish them (with points or fines) for something someone else did. The point of fines is less valid. For example Ray Evernham (owner of the number 9 team) should know enough about his teams, and who is on them, to control situations such as these. Therefore he should take responsibilty for whom he hires. But the points.
NASCAR is perhaps the most inconsistant major sport when it comes to keeping score. The points system is always being changed, and that has happened yet again. So in a game where only the top 10 scoring teams make it to the playoffs (which is 10 races long), how can it be justified for penalizing a driver and his pit crew for something the crew chief did? That doesn’t seem fair. But it will probably happen. Even moving these drivers to the back of the field can have these type of impacts. Starting from 43rd place in a 43 car field makes it nearly impossible to get a 1st place finish. Not impossible, but nearly impossible.
The difference between this and steroids therefore, is with steroids it is clear who took them (unless it was vitamin B-12…). Yes, a trainer can give a player steroids, but it is a little more cut and dry than this NASCAR situation.
The point is, where there is so much subjectivity between right and wrong, or rather who is right and who is wrong, who should be penalized. There are so many people that could be responsible how does one decide who actually is.
On another note, Marty was fired today. Is anyone really surprised? I certainly am not.