The Shift: The Chase, Cheating, And Short Tracks
This week on the Shift we are coming off of the Easter weekend. All three major series were off this weekend, which would make this a good time to bring back the Easter weekend XFINITY race at Hickory (A point we will discuss later in this column).
There was some major news that occurred this past week. The biggest news is that the No. 31 team of Ryan Newman was caught cheating by manipulating the tires on the car through bleeding air from them. The crew chief and car chief each earned a six-race suspension, fines in the $hundreds of thousands, and the team lost 75 driver and owner points, dropping Newman to the mid-twenties in points. There are many who say this is too harsh for the team. I say it is not harsh enough. Since NASCAR is a team sport, the whole team needs to be involved in any suspension, not just the leading crew members. That’s right, the No. 31 needs to be suspended for six races as well. In the past, only a few teams have been suspended due to cheating, and they found a way around the rules. I know that this would remove the team caught cheating and keep them from having a shot at winning the Chase. NASCAR history shows inconsistency in fines/penalties depending on the infraction. Simple way to fix it: you cheat; you get caught; you don’t race the next (x) amount of races.
Speaking of the Chase and cheating, why have only certain teams’ tires been tested by NASCAR? Why aren’t all teams being checked in this matter? So far, only a handful of teams have been tested, with Harvick twice, yet the kings of cheating (No. 48 and No. 24) have yet to be tested. Conspiracy theorists can take this knowledge and say that NASCAR is rigged, and that they have favorites. We all have known for a while now that NASCAR does play favorites. If NASCAR wants a level playing field, then they need to test all the tires after the race, and not just a random few, or not check any tires. Clear as mud, right? Basically, stop over-policing the sport and allow teams to have areas to make their car the best car. Remove some of the rules, but if they break a rule, make the TEAM sit out of (x) amount of races.
Another topic this weekend was Kyle Larson fainting after an autograph session, and not being cleared to start the race at Martinsville. I saw a quote that drivers are not afraid to miss a race with an illness with the current championship setup, due to the fact they can get treatment for their issue, whether it is physical or mental, and still have a chance to compete for the Chase. Larson is the latest driver to need a medical clearance from NASCAR to qualify for the Chase. Before Larson, Vickers, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch, if he heals in time, will all have waivers from having to start every race in order to compete for the Chase.
The old school fan in me says that drivers should have to compete in all races and have each race count for the championship. If a driver misses a race, it would spell disaster for a championship, but that is why there is always next year. I understand ‘safety’ is NASCAR’s priority, but by doing so there will never be heroes showing their true grit, gutting out an injury to compete. Soon it will be ‘I broke a nail, and cannot drive’ and NASCAR will give a medical exemption to not race.
Let’s shift gears now to the product on the race at Martinsville. The truck race had strategy, beating and banging and a hungry teenager (Cole Custer) trying to get a win in his first start for Jr. Motorsports. It was not meant to be, as Matt Crafton got back to Custer and ended up spinning him out, setting up a G-W-C, where Joey Logano was able to pass Crafton for the win. Loved the race with the exception of the Sprint Cup driver winning the race. On Sunday the race was good as well. Love the fact that the drivers can drive without worrying about aerodynamics. It shows who can actually drive a car. I was impressed by the performances of David Ragan in the No. 18 earning a top 5, and Danica finishing in the top 10, and having a decent run. NASCAR needs to add more short tracks to the Sprint Cup, XFINITY, and Camping World Truck schedules and remove some of the races at tracks over one mile in length.
What are your thoughts? Should NASCAR change its penalties to sit the car, and driver as well? Should drivers be given an exemption to compete for the championship? Should there be more short track races? Please weigh in below. Your comments are welcomed.