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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NASCAR should have parked Gibbs cars for cheating

NASCAR threw the book at Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide teams on Wednesday, blasting them with a laundry list of penalties after magnets were found under the gas pedals of the teams two Nationwide cars during a post-race dyno test, in an effort to disguise the team’s true horsepower numbers.

-- 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.

Announcements coming
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.

Schedule changes
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.


Anonymous sick of the politics said...

Why didn,t Nascar confiscate the cars, take them back to R&D and really find out if the difference is the car or the occupants of the seats and end this game that is being played each week. If you have the best cars and the best most aggressive drivers it is to be expected that you will be dominate. It's time to quit thinking about the sponsors and start considering the fans. If a team cheats, take away all the purses and all the points won from the start of the season to the time that the infraction was caught and that will bring a whole new prespective to the game.

August 21, 2008 at 6:16 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you really think anyone really cares about the Nationwide series? If anyone was going to try something against the rules, why not try here instead of the Sprint Cup where the penalties actually could hurt a teams chances of winning the title! If NASCAR wanted to really hurt JGR, or anyone else, they would park all of the owners cars for all of the NASCAR sanctioned races!

August 21, 2008 at 9:04 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO, the JGR cars should not have been parked. The penalties that were levied are to date the most severe ever in the Nationwide Series. Having seven key crew members indefinitelly suspended is huge.

Furthermore, the two examples that you cited can be distinguished from the case with JGR. First, both Gordon and Harvick were penatlized for actions that they did DURING a NASCAR sanctioned race. NASCAR has repeatedly stated that JGR did nothing wrong and/or illegal DURING the Michigan race.

Second, Harvick was already on NASCAR probation when he got parked for wrecking Coy Gibbs in the Truck race. When NASCAR parked Harvick during the truck race, Harvick decided to park his truck in front of the NASCAR hauler and not in the garage. Harvick quickly learned that you don't REPEATEDLY thumb your nose at NASCAR and expect to get by with it.

Third, when Gordon got parked for the cup race last year, it was because he also thumbed his nose at NASCAR. Gordon intentionally spun out a competitior and was black flaged. He did not head the black flag and NASCAR stopped scoring him. Gordon then proceded to finish the race, do a 'victory burnout' , and then slam NASCAR during a TV interview.

August 21, 2008 at 12:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the punishments are a joke. Taking away drivers points when they aren't running for a championship is nothing. Same as the car owner points. They have a big lead and even with the penalties are still in the lead. Fines! Fifty thousand is nothing and probably will be picked up by Toyota behind closed doors so that means nothing. Suspending the crew chiefs is nothing also. Are they suspended from the shops or any communication with the crew are drivers? I doubt it. My question is, how many times have these spacers been in the cars both in the nationwide and cup during this year when dyno runs were made? Bet this isn't the first time. The two nationwide cars should have been parked for at least one race. That might have sent a meassage. The only difference this year for Gibbs is adding Toyota and Busch and look how they are dominating even putting the powerhouse Hendrick Teams to shame along with everyone else. Amazing how much Kyle has improved since leaving Hendricks and chevy to Gibbs and Toyotas. I've said it before and I'll say it again-Toyota is making Kyle look way better than he really is. Some folks say he is the only one winning in a Toyota but that's not the whole story. Tony Steward has had several wins lost by pit strategy/rain/, getting tapped in the rear and several flat tires. Hamlin dominated Richmond until a tire cost him the win. Even Busch has had several tires cost him some wins. Look at Red Bull Racing, they've had chances to win some races until tires cost them a win most notably at Charlotte. So, it's not just Busch winning and running better in Toyotas. It's several other drivers too and with just a little more luck this whole year would have been a Toyota runaway in just their second year in cup and nationwide racing. Even the truck series has been dominated by Toyotas. In fact, I seen on the internet that Toyota has won over fifty percent of the races in cup, nationwide, and truck series. Pretty good especially for a company being in the nationwide and cup series for a year and a half. Guess ole Jack Roush was right about what Toyota would do when they came into this sport. I saw somewhere the other day that Kyle had won like four cup races in three years at Hendricks while his teammates were winning lots more races and even championships. Amazing what all that Toyota money can do for a driver and team.

August 21, 2008 at 1:04 PM 

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