NASCAR should have parked Gibbs cars for cheating
-- Drivers Joey Logano and Tony Stewart will each lose 150 points, and are on probation until the end of the year.
-- Both the #18 and #20 teams lose 150 owner points, and the entire teams are on probation until the end of the year.
-- Both crew chiefs (Jason Ratcliff, Dave Rogers) have been fined $50,000 and suspended indefinitely.
-- In addition, both car chiefs, a pair of engine tuners and a crew member have been suspended indefinitely.
While these punishments are welcome, they should have gone even farther. If NASCAR really had wanted to punish JGR for its actions, it would have parked the team for at least a few races. That would have hit the team even harder, as it would have had to explain to its sponsors why their colors weren’t out on the track.
People have been parked for less. Robby Gordon was parked for a Cup race for disobeying officials during a Nationwide race last year. Also, in 2002, Kevin Harvick was parked for a Cup race after following through on threats made over the radio to take out another competitor during a Truck race. I would think such a blatant attempt to deceive NASCAR would merit a parking of at least three races, as it makes those two offenses seem like nothing.
Joe Gibbs issued a statement saying that his team has always prided itself on being honest, and apologizing for this lapse in judgment by some team members.
“What we have determined is that these individuals involved used extremely poor judgment in attempting to alter the results of NASCAR’s dyno test following Saturday’s Nationwide Series race in Michigan,” Gibbs said. “Although in no way was anything done that might have altered the race outcome, these JGR employees attempted to circumvent the NASCAR rule book and that is unacceptable.”
Gibbs went on to say: “We take full responsibility and accept the penalties,” and indicated he would add to the penalties in-house, suspended both crew chiefs for at least the rest of this year, and issuing more monetary fines against the people within the teams who were involved. I applaud this, but I also think the worst offenders should be fired, not just suspended.
Gibbs did complain about his drivers being penalized, and he has a point because they had nothing to do with the deception. But I don’t mind this move, as that’s even more incentive for teams not to pull this kind of thing and damage the sport‘s reputation. Imagine if this had been a team contending for a driver points title, it could have ruined their season.
I think Gibbs grasps the magnitude of this incident. Up until now, everyone was in awe of Gibbs and their dominating season in Nationwide and Cup. Now, they are viewed with suspect eyes by many competitors and their achievements are tainted, even if this is an off-track incident. Actually, it’s worse … because had they not been caught, this would have affected the fairness of every race from now until the end of the season.
There are some people who will stick up for the team, saying NASCAR was unfair to them by limiting their horsepower and they were only trying to get the advantage back. While I agree that the horsepower rule change was not necessary, my support for the Gibbs team stops the minute they try to circumvent the rules of the sport and alter the results of a dyno test.
As the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. Anyone who claims this is a witch hunt against Toyota is ignoring the fact that there’s no defense for this … even Gibbs admits that.
While I recognize that in the days of Smokey Yunick, cheating was accepted, this is a new era. The sport is so big now, any backhanded efforts like this only undermine the sport’s integrity, and can’t be tolerated.
I’m hoping, for the good of the sport and its integrity, that other teams take note of these penalties and will think twice before engaging in any such actions in the future.
The long-anticipated announcement that Joey Logano will replace Tony Stewart in the #20 car is expected within a week. Also, it’s looking more and more like my prediction for the #12 car, David Stremme, will become a reality. The others being considered (Mears, Truex) are no longer available, so unless there’s some big surprise looming, expect Stremme in the #12 next year.
Stremme got run out of Cup after a rough year in the #40 for Chip Ganassi last year, but considering how that team shut down this season, maybe it wasn’t all Stremme’s fault the team struggled so much. He deserves a second chance, and he’ll likely get it with Penske next season.
Of the changes to the Cup schedule in 2009, there is one that I applaud. As part of a three-track swap with California and Talladega, Atlanta will host a race on Labor Day weekend next year … a much better option than California. Better yet, it will be at night. I attended an (accidental) night race at Atlanta 10 years ago, when rain delayed the race all day and action didn’t really get underway until almost 10 p.m., ending well after midnight. Back then, Atlanta was the final race of the year and they did not want to postpone it until Monday. So the other fans and I stuck it out all day, and in the end we got one of the better races I’ve seen in person in my lifetime. Night racing is great, but when combined with an exciting track like Atlanta, it’s even better. I can’t wait until next Labor Day to see it all over again.