NASCAR Drivers Look For More Consistency In Rules In Wake Of Expanded Chase Field
Following NASCAR's decision to expand the Chase for the Sprint Cup to 13 teams, several drivers have "agreed they’d like to see more consistency from the sanctioning body with the way it enforces its current rules," according to Don Coble of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Erratic enforcement of "restart rules and out-of-bounds violations and team collusion has long been a part of stock car racing’s controversial past." It also has "helped foster a belief that races sometimes are contrived to benefit the bigger stars." NASCAR hoped to "clean up some of those loopholes -- and regain some integrity -- last week by telling teams they are expected to race" at 100%. What race teams "want more than anything else, however, are rules that are black and white, not blurred by indecision." While driver Jeff Gordon "probably deserved to be in the Chase, many are concerned that expanding it to 13 drivers creates the appearance NASCAR creates rules as it goes." Driver Jimmie Johnson said, "We all are just looking for consistency. I think there is probably more argument in that than in 13 cars being in the Chase. As a competitor and one of the 12 that was in the Chase you just changed the odds tremendously by adding a 13th car" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/19).
OPENING PANDORA'S BOX: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Pappone wrote how the 100% rule will be enforced "is anyone's guess, but NASCAR also noted in its explanation that judging whether or not a driver goes all out is solely at its discretion." If that "doesn't open a proverbial can of worms, it's only because even invertebrates are smart enough not to go anywhere near this one." Even NASCAR itself "highlighted how completely inane its new rule is when it explained a change in its restart procedure a day later: That move was brought about -- read carefully here -- because the series thought it was better to remove subjectivity from the equation." NASCAR in essence "is adopting a 'subjectivity if necessary, but not necessarily subjectivity' attitude when it comes to its rules" (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 9/16).
LINE IN THE SAND: ESPN's Brad Daugherty said of NASCAR's penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing for manipulating the Sept. 7 race at Richmond Int'l Raceway, "NASCAR did what they had to do. Brian France stepped in and absolutely drew a line in the sand protecting as much of the integrity of the sport as possible. I think there was somewhat of a gray area there that a lot of the drivers and teams and owners are obviously going to push and try to take advantage of any circumstances to help their teammates. And I think what NASCAR did was come in and really, really make it clear that this is unacceptable at any level. ... The decisions that they made, though, are some decisions that are questionable and I may not agree with, but I think they were put into a position where the only way they could react is with the chairman stepping up" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 9/18).
INTEGRITY EXAMINED: ESPN.com conducted a roundtable with its motorsports reporters discussing NASCAR's integrity following the Richmond scandal. Terry Blount weighed in, "In the long term, NASCAR officials may have saved the sport. They opted on the side of integrity, which is what some casual observers outside the sport all too often claim NASCAR lacks. It could be a transformative moment." Ed Hinton: "While NASCAR will never satisfy its always-suspicious fans with any action it takes on anything at any time, chairman Brian France and president Mike Helton handled this thing as well as they could have. And, in the long run, they might just have improved NASCAR's image with their firm but not radical rulings." Ryan McGee: "I don't subscribe to the 'Any publicity is good publicity' mantra and this is the perfect example why. I think that sometimes the garage is such an insulated place that people who work in it fail to see the bigger picture outside that garage. This has made the whole sport look like a joke, from the spin all the way through changing rules the morning of the following race and I'm not sure everyone really realizes that. I tell you who does understand the potential impact of all this embarrassment -- Mike Helton." David Newton: "It'll last throughout the Chase, particularly if one of those impacted by the controversy happens to be in contention for the title. But it eventually will go away just as every other controversy has" (ESPN.com, 9/17).