Maybe It's NASCAR's Inspection Process That Really Needs Inspecting
The flap over Kevin Harvick’s back window at Las Vegas - and NASCAR’s subsequent penalty assessment - rubs me the wrong way.
By my age, there’s probably not a whole lot I say that I haven’t said before, and in this case I’ll freely plead guilty, but the fact is I think NASCAR’s current attitude toward rules and cheating is just silly. The NASCAR rule book is like the tax code: written so that the objective is to come as close as possibly to the line of legality without going over… or (some would say) getting caught. So you write the rules that way and then act like it’s a huge surprise when anybody does get caught, whether the infraction was intentional or not. Good grief.
Kevin Harvick’s offending roof, modeled after the aerodynamics of a Jimmy John’s sub.
It’s hard to believe that Harvick’s roof issue resulted from any intentional scheme, although we now know that fake news travels faster on social media than the real thing, so the paranoia contingent no doubt has the Stewart-Haas’ team’s plans all figured out. Nevertheless, I’m going to say it was unintentional, which makes the penalty seem like… well, like executing somebody for a foot foul at the bowling alley.
It’s another of those areas where NASCAR wants total control but hasn’t yet realized that such heavy-handedness isn’t in the best interest of the sport. I say it’s better to let the social media addicts go ballistic (until the next global cataclysm comes along in a couple of hours); maybe they’ll actually get so worked up that they show up for a race.
Remember 1982? Yeah, I know, a lot of you weren’t born, yet. But that was the year Bobby Allison won the Daytona 500 in a car that didn’t have a back bumper. Early in the race, the bumper came off after a bump from Cale Yarborough. It caused a big wreck, but afterward, it seemed to help Allison’s car more than hurt it. There was lots of post-race screaming and accusing (even before Twitter and Facebook), but NASCAR couldn’t find an offense to cite the DiGard team for committing, so there was no penalty.
This publicity shot of Allison’s winning car clearly shows a bumper, so they were obviously afraid to show it missing. If that doesn’t prove they’re guilty, then I don’t have a Twitter account.
That seems sensible to me, in part because it was back when the attitude toward rules was “innocent until proven guilty” (as it should be), not “guilty until proven innocent” (as it seems to be today).
Especially troubling is the issue of issuing penalties based on work done days after the race in NASCAR’s secret lab in North Carolina. In this case, Harvick’s car had passed inspection at the track, as had everybody else, but nobody else was subject to the additional analysis at the lab.
Sooooo,,, double standard for the winner?
That might take us all the way back to 1960, when Emanuel Zervakis won a Grand National/Cup race at Wilson, N.C., only to have it taken away when it was found that his gas tank was too big. Runner-up Joe Weatherly inherited the win and later quipped that he knew just how big Zervakis’ illegal tank was, because he had one in his car, too. As the runner-up, his car wasn’t checked.
If Emanuel Zervakis had claimed his Wilson Speedway win in the modern era instead of 1960, he would have lost points and money but could have kept the win and trophy.
Bottom line (and I’ve said this before, again and again): simplify the rules - cutting costs drastically in the process - and make it clear that in certain areas, cheating won’t be tolerated - break those rules, and you get disqualified, even if you’ve won the race. Everywhere else, let the track inspectors do their jobs, and then let the racers race. Sell the secret lab in North Carolina; the Russians might be interested.
THIS “NEWS” JUST IN (proving that, as usual, nobody listens to Frank):
NASCAR announced today the creation of its Archaeological Intervention Research & Inspection Bunker, which will re-inspect past race competitors based on available carbon-dating and DNA testing of reclaimed evidence.
The bunker’s first project will be a computer digital recreation of the engine from Darrell Waltrip’s Junior Johnson Chevrolet that won the 1985 Winston All-Star Race at Charlotte, only to disintegrate immediately after taking the checkered flag.
Junior Johnson and Darrell Waltrip celebrate their 1985 victory in the Winston All-Star Race, but just wait ‘til NASCAR Archaeological Inspections catches up with you guys.
“If we find the engine was illegal and meant to blow up before we could look at it back then,” a NASCAR official said, “we won’t take the victory away, but we’ll encumber Darrell’s Social Security check and make him wear really ugly clothes on the air for the next few Fox broadcasts.”
The archaeological inspection will focus on pieces of metal thought to have been from the engine but that were later used for a moonshine still in rural Wilkes County. DNA samples for Johnson were obtained from a fan who hadn’t washed his hands since shaking hands with “The Last American Hero” in 1993.
The Bunker also is seeking DNA from relatives of the drivers who competed in the Grand National race on Saturday, July 30, 1955, at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse and then at Bay Meadows Speedway in San Mateo, Calif., the next day, to determine if any used body doubles, because, “that was an awfully long way to go back then.” They also plan to investigate the last-place finisher at San Mateo to see if his name really was Crash Carson.
“We don’t think NASCAR was serious enough about enforcing its rules in years past,” the official said, explaining the creation of the Bunker, which is located in a former missile silo at an undisclosed location.
Additional details will not be forthcoming.