We had a question in yesterday’s Ask The Insiders Wednesday about what appears to be a growing drug problem in NASCAR, and I wanted to take a little bit more space and expand on my answer to reader Tony. The question was no doubt spawned by the announcement on Tuesday this week that yet another crew member had been suspended for violating the sport’s substance abuse policy. Chris Moore, the gas man for AJ Allmendinger’s #43 Ford at Richard Petty Motorsports is the latest offender.
NASCAR took a much tougher stance with their drug policy before the beginning of the 2009 season. They started requiring drug testing for drivers and crew members to obtain a NASCAR license, and they implemented random testing during the season. The change in policy was the direct result of the admission by driver Aaron Fike that he’d used heroin before driving in a Truck Series race at Memphis a few years ago.
Since then, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended no less then 19 crew members and drivers for violating the substance abuse policy. Here are the names and teams, in no particular order:
- Chris Moore #43 Cup
- Randy Lajoie, ex-driver, spotter, TV
- Matthew Huffstetler #01 Truck
- William Keith #38 Cup
- William Hileman #76 Truck
- Kenneth Luna #23 NNS
- William Wheeler #57 Truck
- Jeremy Mayfield, driver
- Ben Williams #16 NNS
- Paul Chodora #41 Cup
- Mark Norman #09 NNS
- Clint Carter #46 Truck
- Jeremy Wilbert #95 Truck
- Ryan Sebek #76 Truck
- Richard Henninger #6 Cup
- Gary St. Amant #99 Truck
- Mike Hennessy #99 Truck
- Andrew Crnkovic #07 Truck
- Richard Gray #77 NNS
From this, you’ll see that one current driver, one ex-driver, four Cup guys, four NNS guys, and nine Truck guys have been busted.
What’s interesting to note however, is that only three of these offenders worked for major teams. The rest worked for much smaller operations. And many were temporary employees for part time teams who were tested at the track to obtain their license to work for the weekend. If any teams are going to be more susceptible to this type of problem, you would expect it to be the smaller teams, as they don’t have the necessary resources to run their own comprehensive drug testing programs like many of the larger organizations have. At most of the big teams anymore pre-employment drug screens are required of all new hires.
With a little bit of estimating and some quick math, we can safely say that somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 people come to the track each weekend as crew members for Truck, NNS, and Cup teams. Comparing our 19 violators to this number of total crew members shows us that somewhere around 1% have failed. That is a very low number.
Don’t get me wrong though, I understand that there are more out there who just haven’t been caught, but I think this is a very small group. Don’t forget that everyone with a license has already passed at least one drug test, and NASCAR randomly tests as many as 15 people each race weekend. For those that have made bad choices, it’s only a matter of time before they are caught.
Looking over the information, I think it appears that NASCAR doesn’t have any more of a problem with substance abuse then any other sport or business for that matter. It’s completely unrealistic to think that nobody does it, but I also think it’s unfair to say this is a major problem. NASCAR certainly waited way too long to put together any sort of real policy, and their current version could definitely use some improvements, but I believe progress has been made.