A lot happened after the race at Richmond, it’s time to take emotion and fan bias out of it and look at this rationally. I’ve heard opinions from fans about team ethics manipulating the races and how the integrity of NASCAR is in question. Honestly, what the teams did isn’t the real problem here. The problem is with the sanctioning body of NASCAR. The integrity of the sport was absolutely hurt this weekend, but not by the incidents on the track. It was the actions of NASCAR afterward that have hurt the reputation of the sport. As if racing has a hard enough time being respected as a true sport, these flimsy rules are not helping the case. Going through the NASCAR rule book, there isn’t anything explicitly stating that teams cannot strategize to affect point standings. Part of racing is understand all the rules, and working within those bounds to benefit your team. If NASCAR did not like that the standings were shaken up because of the moves these teams made, they have every right to go back and write new rules. Key word here, “new”. Write it down, announce it, let the teams know they cannot do it, and then, once they actually break a rule, enforce it. I’m tired of “actions detrimental to stock car racing” being quoted any time NASCAR just doesn’t like something that happens, but it technically didn’t break any rules. The sport evolves rapidly, and NASCAR officials need to keep up with that and write rules that regulate the sport properly.
Breaking down the specifics of what happened, it is clear NASCAR lacks consistency, and is making a mockery of themselves. In terms of Michael Waltrip Racing, 3 teams were penalized equally, for completely different actions. Brian Vickers was told to pit by his crew chief, he had no idea it was to manipulate points, but he did come down pit road, and because it affected the point standings, the 55 team was docked 50 points. Clint Bowyer spun out intentionally, which is reckless and an entirely different issue than simply pitting. The goal was also to manipulate the standings, so the team was also penalized points. Martin Truex Jr. benefitted from these incidents, but did not take part himself. His team was also docked 50 points. To anyone outside the sport, this makes no logical sense. That’s because it just plain doesn’t make sense. Three completely different scenarios were handed down the same penalties. Then you have the situation with David Gilliland and Joey Logano, Gilliland gave up a spot to Logano to give him a spot in the chase. If you guess both teams were docked 50 points, congratulations, you’re wrong! Wait, what? Oh, right, NASCAR is completely inconsistent, and just makes this up as they go. Instead, Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing were both put on probation through the end of this year. Hard to follow what’s happening, because there’s no actual system in place to handle it. Now here is the part that is frustrating, and possibly did the most damage to NASCARs reputation as a sport: they added a 13th driver to the Chase, and it just happens to be Jeff Gordon. They felt that Jeff was unfairly ousted from the Chase because of the actions of these other teams. The solution was to, again, just make something up on the spot. The reason I think this is the biggest blow to NASCARs reputation, unfortunately, is that Gordon is a very popular driver, and to anyone on the outside it’s going to look like favoritism. I personally don’t feel that is the case, but I can’t blame anyone that makes that claim either, because they made up the rule for this one specific instance. NASCAR needs to understand that they need to follow their own rules. They can write new ones if they are unhappy with the system, but they have to write them first, and then wait until someone breaks them after they are set in stone to start punishing people.
So, what should have happened? Bowyer definitely should have been in trouble, there are rules already in place to prevent drivers from intentionally causing accidents. Vickers, Truex Jr., Gilliland, and Logano should have been left alone. What they did was strategic, and technically within the rules. Those types of deals get made every single race. Whether is giving up a spot to help someone in points, or letting a team mate lead a lap, that is part of racing right now. Finding holes in the rules and using them to your advantage is nothing new. Does anyone remember a certain Hendrick Motorsports team using a car named “T-Rex” to dominate a race? They were technically within the rule book, so NASCAR didn’t hand out penalties, they rewrote the rules. That’s what should have happened here. When teams point out NASCARs flaws, NASCAR should react by correcting themselves, not punishing everyone that figured out how to beat their broken system. I understand the frustration that the 24 team must have felt, but they technically could have been doing the same things these other teams were to get ahead.
The major issue here is that NASCAR is making everything up as they go along. You cannot do that in sports, honestly, you can’t do that anywhere. Think what you would do in situation where you were playing a game with friends, and some one breaks a rule you never actually explained. It’s probably happened before, you say “oh hey I forgot to mention that one rule, it’s ok, you didn’t know, but from now on you do know.” NASCAR isn’t even doing what 3rd graders understand as fair, and that is making our sport look incredibly ridiculous.