SBD/March 22, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR Makes Rare Move In Overturning Suspension For Hendrick Motorsports

Decision showed having both parties argue case face-to-face is fairest way to proceed
NASCAR overturned a suspension it previously imposed on Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus on Tuesday and the move was a “major victory for Hendrick” but a “bigger victory for the sport, even though NASCAR officials probably are licking their wounds,” writes David Newton of ESPN.com. NASCAR has a ruling overturned in the Sprint Cup Series “about as often as it snows on Christmas Eve in Hawaii.” The last one came in ’05. The decision also showed that “having both parties sit down and argue the case face-to-face, something that didn't happen in the initial appeal, is the fairest way to proceed.” If NASCAR had a process more like Tuesday's in place “for the first appeal, perhaps the past 30 days wouldn't have been like 'hell'" (ESPN.com, 3/20). In Orlando, George Diaz wrote while the appeals ruling “turned Twitter into a four-letter-word minefield from fans who insist the fix is in for the Hendrick Motorsports empire, this marks the end of the legal yada-yada since NASCAR dropped the original penalties last month for rules violations dating back to Speedweeks at Daytona Beach” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/21).

CHECKS & BALANCES: SI.com’s Dustin Long wrote NASCAR Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook's “importance in NASCAR is growing,” and in “some ways, he has more power than some of NASCAR's top officials.” Middlebrook has “shown a willingness to curtail some of NASCAR's penalties recently.” NASCAR Senior Dir of Communications for Competition Kerry Tharp said that series officials “remain confident in their inspection process.” But Long wrote that “doesn't mean others won't fight their penalties,” and with Middlebrook, NASCAR teams “might have somebody willing to listen to their cause” (SI.com, 3/21).
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