Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mucking it up down in Richmond

I finally reached a point last Saturday night where I couldn't sit and watch the BYU offense run at will against the Longhorn defense I was told was much improved over last year's disaster. Well, numbers don't lie and the defense laid an egg of epic proportions in the Utah desert.

So I flipped over to the stock car race. For those of y'all who don't follow NASCAR, a few years ago they implemented one of the dumbest ideas in all of sports. They decided that instead of crowning a champion based upon his performance over the course of the entire season that they would create a 10-race "playoff" to determine the champion.

The details aren't important but how much sense does it make to put 12 drivers racing for a championship on the same race track with 31 other drivers who are just racing for money? But that's neither here nor there.

On Saturday night as the race wound down Ryan Newman was leading. If he won the race he would be in the playoff and Martin Truex would be out. If he lost, he would be out while Martin Truex would be dancing.

With but a few laps remaining Clint Bowyer spun bringing out a yellow flag. The cars came into pit and, when all was said and done, Ryan Newman was no longer in the lead. When the checkered flag flew, Ryan Newman was out of the playoff and Martin Truex, Clint Bowyer's teammate was in.

The next morning all anyone could talk about was the suspicious finish to the race. Then NASCAR got involved and pulled audio that led them to believe that Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), the team of both Truex and Bowyer, had manipulated the end of the race to benefit their drivers. As a result, NASCAR fined the team a significant amount of money, took away 50 points from the drivers and suspended their crew chiefs. Adding insult to injury, the penalty knocked Truex out of the playoff and put Newman back in.

So, if we are to believe NASCAR in this, the person who caused the mess suffers no harm while Truex, an innocent bystander, is docked points for something he had no control over. Where is the justice in that?

But what was the problem? NASCAR is full of multi-car teams that share garages and testing data. The teams build cars for each driver using data they have gathered from races and testing sessions. They swap crew chiefs and pit crews sometimes.

MWR did what teams do - they worked to get the best possible outcomes for their drivers. It's a time-honored tradition in auto racing. In Formula 1 drivers are under team orders to do what benefits the team leader. This was no different.
The plot thickens as NASCAR looks into whether Joey Logano's team made a deal with another driver to take a dive.
NASCAR was upset because it appeared MWR made deliberate moves to impugn the integrity of the race. Really? NASCAR is legendary for the invisible "debris on the track" yellow flag when someone gets too big of a lead late in a race. NASCAR encourages drivers to "beat and bang" on the track. Drivers have spun out their competitors late in races in attempts to win -- and everyone then says "that's racing."

Sure, maybe the ending of the race left a bad taste in some mouths - but so what? NASCAR still tries to market itself as a bunch of good ol' boy moonshiners driving around in circles in souped-up sedans. The reality is that NASCAR is a buttoned-down corporatized enterprise that's more concerned with image, television ratings and sponsorship dollars.

Still, as far as I'm concerned, what happened on Saturday night was "just one of them racin' deals."

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