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Friday, February 25, 2011

Michael Waltrip no stranger to NASCAR penalties

NASCAR levied fines against Michael Waltrip's truck team following a bizarre failure of the spoiler on his truck causing many to question the legitimacy of his winning the race--the first official race for the Camping World Truck Series at Daytona.

Michael Waltrip is not a stranger to being fined at Daytona.

In this most recent event, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011, Waltrip's last lap maneuver caused him to win the race. His post-race interview was, frankly, weird. Waltrip isn't a very good actor. He claimed he didn't know about the spoiler until he finished the race, but I am not so sure, given his behavior. Something wasn't quite right.

What resulted was clearly no surprise.

There are some conspiracy theorists that would gladly believe Waltrip's race win was intentionally staged. After all, there was plenty of hype surrounding the ten-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death. Waltrip won the 2001 Daytona 500, a race win marred by Earnhardt's death. 

Had Waltrip legitimately won the truck race, to honor Earnhardt's memory, it would have made a beautiful story. Instead, the story is clouded by controversy due to failed parts.

Was the win legitimate?

When Waltrip drove the #15 truck to victory, it was after a portion of the spoiler failed during the final laps of the race. Half of it was virtually non-existent. Only half a spoiler results in half the drag, possibly resulting in faster speeds. Was the spoiler the reason Waltrip was able to cruise past the #2 truck driven by Elliott Sadler on that last pass?

As a result, Waltrip's crew chief Doug Howe was fined $25,000 and put on probation until Dec. 31. Billy Ballew, who owns the Vision Aviation Racing Waltrip drove, was penalized 25 owner points. That doesn't sound like a lot, but under the new points system, it is comparable to 100 points last year. Waltrip did not lose driver points because he is not competing full time in the truck series. 

According to a NASCAR press release, the fines were said to violate three sections of the rule book:

  • 12-1 - actions detrimental to stock car racing;
  • 12-4-J - any determination by NASCAR Officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules;
  • 20B-3.1.2E - rear spoiler did not meet specifications in post-race inspection.

NASCAR officials confiscated the part for inspection and later ruled that it appeared to have failed. They claim none of the pieces were illegal, concluding that it does not appear the part was altered on purpose.

But what are race fans to think since this is like deja vu?

This is not the first time Michael Waltrip has incurred fines at the start of the racing season.

In the opening pages that marked the 2007 season, Michael Waltrip's new racing team failed pre-race inspection prior to the Duel races. At that time, NASCAR found an illegal substance in the engine that would boost the horsepower. They found him to be in violation of three rules:

  • 12-4-A - actions detrimental to stock car racing;
  • 12-4-Q - car, car parts components and/or equipment not conforming to NASCAR rules;
  • 20-15.2C - gasoline must not be blended with alcohols, ethers or other oxygenates.

He was fined 100 driver points; his wife Buffy who owned the car, was fined 100 owner points; his crew chief Larry Hyder was suspended indefinately and fined $100,000. Vice President of competition Bobby Kennedy was suspended indefinitely as well, according to past reports.