Monday, September 16, 2013

Making it up as we go along, NASCAR-style

NASCAR has long fought the impression that stock car racing is the equivalent of professional wrestling on wheels. Rules have had a funny way of changing on the fly to suit one driver or another - or one manufacturer or another. No one ever had a win taken away if it turned out later that they had cheated by using illegal parts afterward. Spinning the car out in front of you wasn't punished - it was encouraged.

Now, twice in a week, the boys in Daytona Beach have monkeyed around with their own "playoff" system in order to protect the "integrity" of the racing. First they penalized Martin Truex because his teammate deliberately spun himself out late in the Richmond race last weekend. There was no evidence that Truex had anything to do with the manuever - yet somehow it was determined that deliberately spinning yourself out is a just not acceptable.

After penalizing the members of Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex was out of the playoff and Ryan Newman - who had been leading at the time of the spin - was back in.

But then there was Joey Logano. Apparently his team had a deal in place with another driver to let Logano pass him late in the race. By making the pass Logano picked up enough points to knock fan favorite Jeff Gordon out of the playoff. So, in true NASCAR fashion, the rules were changed in midstream and Gordon was added to the playoff.

NASCAR chief Brian France claims these changes were made to preserve the integrity of the racing. Meanwhile, in order to fill a field of 43 cars every week, teams are allowed to qualify then pull their cars into the pits early in a race in order to avoid damaging their cars. What happened that night in Richmond happens in race after race - it just so happened that this time it was in a race that was made the artificial end of a regular season.

The NASCAR rulebook, it seems, is written in pencil.

Last year I wrote about why Bud Selig would make a good judge as to 4th Amendment issues as he was able to ignore the fact that Ubaldo Jimenez lost a perfect game due to a blown call with two out in the ninth inning. Brian France, however, would be more than comfortable sitting on the bench today as he is more concerned with the outcome than the process.

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