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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Richmond race fallout, virtually meaningless

Michael Waltrip Racing
Michael Waltrip Racing
received harsh penalties
After all the dust has settled, the learning curve is over and it is now time to assess the damage. Long before I was a Ryan Newman fan, I have been devoted to fairness, truth, honesty, and justice.

For me, while I'm happy Ryan is in the chase, all is not good in the world of NASCAR, never a paragon of virtue.

After what transpired Saturday night at Richmond, with the obvious attempt to manipulate the race results in its favor, Michael Waltrip got what amounts to a slap on the wrist. It may be the biggest penalties NASCAR ever handed out, but it isn't enough. Damage remains. Questions are still unanswered. Justice has not prevailed.

What I believe NASCAR really did, with the aid of MWR, was analyze the best way to justify what happened and to repair the damage the quickest, not necessarily the best or fairest way possible. What resulted was flawed because NASCAR's motives are flawed; its methods are flawed. NASCAR brass did not seek justice or fairness; they simply set out to make a positive statement to the myriad fans that were horrified by the actions on the track Saturday. NASCAR had no choice but to do something. So they did.

While it appears the right thing was done by Ryan Newman, NASCAR didn't do it because it was the right thing to do; they did it because it was the most logical thing to do to made them look good.

Ask angry Jeff Gordon fans if justice was served. They continue petitioning in an effort to have Clint Bowyer removed from the Chase in order for Gordon to compete for the championship. Gordon has lots of fans and none of them are happy to see their driver ripped off the way he was.

Gordon was a victim. He was 10th in points until his position was manipulated when Brian Vickers was called into pit, allowing Joey Logano to assume 10th place. In car audio revealed Ty Norris directing Vickers to pit because one more point was needed--the point that would give Logano a chase position leaving the opening for Truex in the wildcard spot.

I feel bad for Martin Truex, Jr., who thought he raced his way into the Chase, not knowing that he was being manipulated by unfair circumstances. It is ironic that he was supposed to be the benefactor, but ended up being the fall guy for the company he works for. And I don't think he even knew at the time.

The result of the penalties assessed by NASCAR are basically meaningless. 

Points only matter to drivers trying to earn a place in the chase. With the chase field set, points are of no consequence. Without a place in the chase, Truex and Vickers are basically unaffected by a points penalty. In Bowyer's case, he lost nothing, beyond his reputation. He's in the chase and with the points reset, the result, his position too, is unaffected. With millions of dollars on the line, let's face it, a monetary penalty to Michael Waltrip Racing--$300,000--is chump change. It may be the largest penalty NASCAR has ever leveled, but that must be put into perspective. That is about the amount of one driver earns in one race or for one endorsement.

The bottom line is that nothing will change because of this action, except that Newman will be guaranteed the spot he earned by doing his job well Saturday night. NASCAR did make that right.

NASCAR held a news conference yesterday to make its reactions to this situation known to the media, but it was not broadcast live to the public. That tells me there is still a problem. NASCAR isn't unlike a political campaign that wants to control the message. In this day and age, that is just not possible, but they haven't figured that out yet.

There was no mention by NASCAR about Carl Edwards, in second place, beating Paul Menard, the leader, to the line on the final restart allowing him to win the race. That is illegal by NASCAR's own definition, and fines have been leveled for it. It was explained away this time. NASCAR continues making rules and then haphazardly enforcing them.

Did NASCAR's action deter future cheating? I don't think so. All they did was show that if you cheat, just don't get caught, or watch what you say on the radio so you don't put us in this position again. That was evident in the fact that Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, who allegedly followed team orders to change the outcome of the race, were not fined or parked. It was evident in the fact that Clint Bowyer refused to admit that he spun out on purpose. Nothing has changed for Michael Watrip or for NASCAR, evident in Waltrip's twitter comments that claim Ty Norris made a split-second call. Norris was suspended indefinitely. That translates into Norris simply being the MWR scapegoat.

I suspect the flaws in this over-regulated, highly-manipulated sport will continue with business as usual.
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