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Find out what's really going on in NASCAR. Look here to find out why your driver really lost his ride, or the real reason those two drivers can't stand each other. Learn about the hidden motives and reasons for the things that happen in NASCAR, from the drivers to the team owners.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

NASCAR teams angry they got caught, not that their people were cheating

When teams get caught cheating in NASCAR, they give the standard response.

After a scapegoat is found, the team will issue a statement saying it was an isolated incident. They’ll fire or suspend some of the people involved (as long as they‘re not too important to the team) and act like they’re taking the high road. It happened this week at Red Bull Racing and earlier this year at Joe Gibbs Racing and other places.

But don’t let the theatrics fool you.
These teams aren’t mad their employees were cheating. They’re just mad they got caught.

Winning and running up front has become even more important with the current economic woes the country is facing, with sponsors so hard to find. It has always been the case that teams want their employees to do whatever is necessary to run up front, but that’s only part of the story. They also need to know how to do it without NASCAR finding out.

I’m not saying teams actively encourage cheating. That wouldn’t make much sense. But they no doubt encourage the team members to bend the rules as much as possible to gain an advantage on the competition. And if NASCAR catches you in that “bending” (I.e. dipping sheet metal in acid) and you get in deep trouble … the teams comes out and acts all innocent.

For example, take the Joe Gibbs Racing teams manipulating dyno tests earlier this year. Gibbs tried to make himself look like the victim and said he wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior on his team, but do you honestly think those crew chiefs will be gone from the Gibbs organization next year after his cars have dominated the Nationwide Series this year? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Also, take the case of Chad Knaus. No one questions that he and Jimmie Johnson are the best driver-crew chief duo in the sport at the moment, but he’s been suspended by NASCAR for rules violations two different times in the past three years, and I can guarantee you Rick Hendrick will never fire him as long as he‘s delivering championships to the organization. Knaus could be suspended 10 times and Hendrick wouldn’t care.

The bottom line: Team owners can pretend to take the high road when a cheating incident happens, but common sense dictates that their outrage is far from sincere.

They’re just mad it wasn’t done well enough to hide it from NASCAR.

First race, first win for Newman in Trucks
Saturday’s Truck Series race featured a great battle between Ryan Newman and Ron Hornaday, who were both driving trucks owned by Kevin Harvick. During the battle, Harvick looked very nervous … but both trucks escaped in one piece. It was the first win for Newman in the series, and also his first ever start in the series. He’s the fourth driver in the series’ history ever to do this, joining Mike Skinner (who won the first race ever run), Robert Pressley and Kasey Kahne.

When Newman took the checkered, that meant 15 less points for Hornaday, who is in a tight points battle with Johnny Benson. If he ends up losing by that amount, Harvick might look back and wonder whether he should have issued team orders (though there’s no guarantee Newman would have listened … he is a race car driver after all)

I also found very interesting Hornaday’s comment after the race that “that’s how the (#2 truck) should be running.” Sounds to me like he’s taking a shot at just-released teammate and longtime Truck Series rival Jack Sprague, who didn’t do a very good job driving the truck Newman drove Saturday for KHI.

Edwards still in hunt for Nationwide title after win
In what was mostly a snoozer at Memphis, winner Carl Edwards was one of only SIX cars on the lead lap and made a huge dent in the Clint Bowyer point lead in the Nationwide Series. It once looked out of reach, but Edwards is just over 100 points behind Bowyer now, so he realistically has a shot at the title with three races left. However it ends up, I’m underwhelmed. I don’t see the excitement in a Cup driver winning the Nationwide title yet again. It’s like the Tigers winning the AAA World Series … it’s a joke.

Kenny Wallace (3rd), Richard Childress’ grandson Austin Dillon (4th), and Chase Miller (6th) also had surprisingly solid finishes. Dillon, 18, was making just his second career start.

A close finish at the end had David Reutimann trying to pass Edwards for the win, but it was not to be. Then, there were some fireworks between Bobby Hamilton Jr. and Landon Cassill. Hamilton’s team is basically out of money and needed a solid finish as they are trying to establish sponsors. Cassill, only 18 with a sky-the-limit future, got an earful and a fistful from Hamilton after the race. I can’t blame Bobby for being mad, given his team’s situation, but I still was laughing when Cassill did his impression during a post-race interview of how Hamilton was yelling and shaking his head during the confrontation.

Also of note was the series debut of 18-year-old Marc Davis, a minority driver, in the #18 Joe Gibbs car. He had some troubles and ended up finishing 23rd in his first Nationwide Series race.

No. 1,000 for Waltrip
Michael Waltrip will make his 1,000th start between NASCAR’s three top series this weekend in the Cup race. He’s been far from impressive overall, barring his stretch with DEI when won a few races, but that kind of longevity is impressive. Only Richard Petty has more overall starts in the sport’s history.

Johnson, Edwards will battle for win
With yet another qualifying rainout putting Jimmie Johnson up front, he and Carl Edwards should have the cars to beat on Sunday. Edwards has been fastest all weekend and has a lot of motivation to do well, considering he’s got almost 200 points to make up on Johnson if he’s going to win the title. The good news for Carl is I believe he’ll win. The bad news for Carl is I believe Johnson will be right behind him, so any gain would be minimal.


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