NASCAR’s Rigged… Sure.

“There are people in and around the NASCAR world, not just drivers but people who cover the sport as well, who are winking at this one. … Someone I talked to who has covered auto racing for a lot of years said she believed there was a 60% chance that Junior qualified with a car not quite up to code and people looked the other way.”


That was actually uttered by a veteran sportswriter – a guy who spent decades working for the Washington Post – on a national television show (that he co-hosts) on a network that broadcasts NASCAR. I’m still shaking my head.

What’s more mind-boggling is that it was Liz Clarke who was his source. For the record, she regrets assigning a percentage to the scenario.

I ask what’s worse: saying something that ignorant; or repeating something that ignorant? You be the judge.

I’ll admit there are a lot of strange coincidences in the history of NASCAR. Ronald Reagan and Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win last season in a Wrangler tribute car and Earnhardt Jr. winning the pole on the 10th anniversary of his father’s death, among others. Still I have a serious problem with the idea that NASCAR somehow “gins” up races.

I have always struggled to understand exactly how you rig a race. Consider the number of people that would be involved in something like that. Sooner or later someone is going to say something. And even if every effort is made to give someone a competitive advantage, there’s no guarantee things are going to turn out how you want. There are just too many moving parts.

To this particular controversy, let’s consider the inspection area at Daytona. Completely wide open for everyone to see – there are even windows out onto the fan zone in the infield. Add to that the other teams waiting in line to have their cars inspected, you can bet there were a lot of people standing around watching.

Even if you do get around the inspection process, what was suggested here is a conspiracy that would have involved not just NASCAR but likely Hendrick Motorsports. Bear with me. NASCAR would have had to have decided sometime prior to the event that they wanted Earnhardt Jr. to win the pole. Great storyline right? That means discussions would have had to have taken place with the inspection officials sometime prior to this week – you know that little wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Then they would have had to have made sure Hendrick brought a car to the track that had some advantage to it – a car that normally wouldn’t have made it through inspection – or given them a cheated up restrictor plate for instance. In either scenario though it’s hard to believe Hendrick wouldn’t have been complicit. Obviously, none of these things could have been too apparent because again, there were a lot of people watching.

The absurdity of this scenario is made even more ridiculous by the fact that Earnhardt Jr. got wrecked in practice on Thursday, so his pole is nothing more than an accolade because he’ll be starting in back. Apparently NASCAR isn’t very good at rigging things.

The fact is Tony Kornheiser knows (and cares) as much about NASCAR as I know (and care) about women’s field hockey. I don’t try to talk about women’s field hockey though.

Absent of better words, I’ll let USA Today’s Michael Hiestand take it away.

“It seems so quaintly 20th-century to quibble about sourcing anymore. Although someone I know who’s watched Kornheiser for years suggests there’s a 60% chance he doesn’t always know what he’s talking about and ESPN management looks the other way.”

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26 Responses to “NASCAR’s Rigged… Sure.”

  1. Bryan says:

    These people crack me up!! The sheer number of people that would have to be in agreement for something like this is staggering. When you consider all of the teams, drivers, crew members, and NASCAR officials that would have to be involved, the number of people would probably be close to 1000. On a great day, it’s hard to get that many people to agree on what day it is, much less agreeing to throw a race where this much money, time and effort is involved.

  2. Woogeroo says:

    If NASCAR is rigged… ya think they’d have a more interesting storyline… however NASCAR has always been more about the show, than about pure “run what ya brung” racing.

    However, Smokey Yunick in his bio. did mention that the Richard Petty 200th win car never made it to post race inspection… but I wasn’t there, so who knows?

    I dunno that it’s rigged, but it’s obvious that they tweak the snot out of it. People watching today can’t understand the amount of craziness that used to go on with rules changes during speedweeks back when there were 4 different body packages… ah, the old days… it gave us more to talk about between races!

    The last time the 500 was on my birthday it wasn’t a good race either, I’m having my doubts about this grab ass following around two car tango thing they got going on. However, if it keeps ‘em out of those dumb packs, that’s an improvement I guess.


  3. BrianInFlorida says:

    I think what is “mind-boggling” is that Joonyer won the “3″rd Daytona race after his father’s death there.

    Had THAT fact been utilized, I’d have bought Kornheiser’s story hook, line and sinker.

  4. Ella says:

    Great rebuttal! Next we will hear that Brian Kesesloski secretly had a powerful engine in yesterday’s race and plotted to have his brother push him to the front. And how about the alien landings for pre-show?

  5. Zieke says:

    Re: 4:32 am. I believe it has been said that Petty’s engine was found to be too large after his 200th win. As for Kornheiser, he is just on that show to stir up controversy and be as big of a jerk as possible. Why would anyone even bother to turn on garbage like that is mind-boggling.

  6. Notcivil says:

    Come on people. It would be so easy to put the fix in. The nascar official places a slightly bigger restricter plate to the 88. No one is going to see the difference in a 64th of an inch.

    That said, I don’t think the fix is in. Jr. is an O.K. driver and hendrick has great equiptment (although they are Chevy’s), good enough for an o.k. driver to get the pole.

  7. Facts says:

    You are too close to the trees to see the forest, plus it is well known that you are mandated / obligated by your employer (NASCAR) to have your opinion, but the fact of the matter is brian france has continued the ruination of the sprot, losing many fans/ viewers/ people who care, in the process.

    NASCAR = WWF. Someday, when you get a real job, you will look back and see how wrong you are.

  8. T.C. says:

    Facts: If you actually knew any facts, you’d know that neither myself or my partner actually work for NASCAR, so try again. And just because we are involved in the sport doesn’t mean we can’t take a step back and see things for what they really are. The beauty of an anonymous blog is that we are free to express our actual opinions, and not what somebody else wants us to say.

    And someday, you’ll quit believing in stupid conspiracy theories and hating on NASCAR, and see the sport for what it really is. Then, you will look back and realize how wrong you are.

  9. Charles says:

    You cannot completely rig a race, but you can lower the goal so its easier to
    to drop the ball in!!!

    The Chevy teams seem to have a easier time in Nascar! Would love to see Jimmy Johnson and Chad switch brands of cars and see how easy it is!

    After two point titles there wings would be clipped!!!!

  10. w g gruner says:

    This is all so crazy. Out of all the people involved in something like Korni suggested there would have to be at least one if not ten that would love to drop a hammer on either NASCAR or JR. It’s not as if the whole NASCAR nation is pulling for JR. It could simply be that on races that coincide with special remembrance for Dale Sr that the teams put a little extra effort in as does JR himself. Maybe this conspiracy crap would hold water if it was Kelly coming out of the office and doing what JR has done.

    Facts? Evidently you not only don’t have the facts about much but you don’t read much or retain much of what you do read. It’s been open knowledge since this site came about that T.C. and Journo are working team crewmen and that’s where their information and insight originates. Advice, when you don’t want to be seen as an idiot, don’t act like one. But notice, I didn’t argue with you about Brian France.

  11. Russ Edwards says:

    The odds of someone noticing that something “slipped by” the inspectors are really pretty slim. AND, why would you rat out somebody? If you do you become a target. And NOBODY wants to have that happen to them.
    Besides, there are plenty of people with stories to tell. And that are willing to tell them. However once they leave the sport its easy for the machine to brush it off as sour grapes.

  12. Josh says:

    I think qualifying at Daytona is so easy, espcially now that it has been repaved, that the driver has little impact on the time unless he or she does something stupid. Gordon is on outside pole, so I am not surprised the 88 is fast. Why does that generate a conspiracy?

    If NASCAR wanted to rig a race, they would probbaly go with what would pay the most. Junior gets viewers and brings in money even when running poorly, so he would not be the guy I don’ think.

    There have been poles in the past that were fishy. Todd Bodine at the Glen in 1997 comes to mind, but who knows. I don’t think Nascar can rig races, but they certainly cheat for lame entertainment. The fake cautions are not thrown so much to favor a certain driver, but rather to bunch up the field so that we get the same boring race every week. It is so horribly obvious, and even the drivers get fined when they mention it. The thing is, the fake cautions are likely what aroused my interest in Nascar at a young age, when I undoubtedly enjoyed an excited, though engineered , race. Now it turns me against because it’s not real. I mean you can’t do it EVERY SINGLE TIME and expect people not to be suspicious.

  13. knobcreekfan says:

    This topic reminds me of the discussions about George W Bush. One minute people say he is so ignorant they can hardly believe he can tie his own shoes. The next minute they accuse him of orchestrating some elaborate conspiracy that require him to be incredibly shrewd and savvy. Which is it?

    One minute Brian France and the NASCAR leaders are complete idiots. The next they are so shrewd they can orchestrate this conspiracy.

    Plus, if they were to orchestrate something to boost Jr’s performance…don’t ya think they would have been doing it 3-4 years ago? Ratings were sliding in 2007/2008. Why wait until now?

    @notcivil/@Charles – There is an old saying – if two people know a secret, the only way to keep it that way is for one of the to be dead. Or something along those lines.

    Yes, it would be difficult for someone to notice an extra 1/64th. But it would be impossible for that to happen and nobody know about it.

    I don’t think Brian or Mike are making the plates, so some mechanic somewhere had to make that slightly larger plate. Now you have at least two people that know the secret.

    Then that plate has to get into the “random selection bin” to be installed during the inspection process. And that plate has to be “selected” by the official to install in Junior’s car. You now have another 1, probably 2, maybe 3 people that know the secret.

    If you have ever spent any time in the garage, you know people in there cannot keep secrets. This little secret is going to get out…unless you revert to the saying above.

  14. Rain says:

    “Rig” is not the right word. That’s impossible like others here have said. But what did a veteran driver once say?

    “NASCAR doesn’t know who’s gonna win the race..but they sure as hell know who isn’t.”

    Enough said.

  15. Charles says:


    There is a old saying “two crooks” will not fall out either!!!!

    Ever heard a WWF wrester say it was fake????? I never have!!!!!!

    Also Tony Stewart a driver said it was fake to a degree!!!!!

    You can keep drinking the Nascar Coolaide if you want, after 40 years of watching I dont put it past them!!! Now you “be civil and jump for joy” if Mike Waltip wins another tribute race!!!!

  16. Gordon says:

    Why couldn’t a team can pass inspection for all to see then switch something on the car in the garage? Nascar does the post race inspection couldn’t the “overlook” something if they wish?

    They can’t rig every little detail that would be impossible as already pointed out.

    I always have heard that when Dale Jarrett won his title he was running illeagal all season long,I do remember Nascar gave Ford cars a huge advantage over the Monte Carlo that year.

  17. Harold Hawley says:

    Guys, seriously. Think about the power of money and the far reaching impact. Nascar is fueled by money, has overmarketed itself, and truly needs it’s fans and sponsors back. If ENRON can fool seasoned wall street veterans and countless others, including employees, for decades. And they were publicly traded, and you think NASCAR could not simply look the other way to bolster a few ratings.

  18. Harold says:

    Let’s sum it up. If the united states can trade arms for hostages, and the president supposedly was kept in the dark, you don’t think NASCAR can do a few things to make sure the most popular driver (and a piece of white trash) gets favors to bolster ratings.

  19. Woogeroo says:

    I say bring back the totally different bodies on the chassis’s and let the real whining begin!

    folks would really howl then!


  20. nate says:

    It is all about promotion. Nascar pumped the wood brothers with media coverage unsually before the race. Trevor may turn out to be a great driver, but this is Daytona. Nascar during the past 10 years has been losing market share, but why don’t they go back to the roots? The races in the south? No, Nascar chooses a quick fix, that will eventually backfire. Trevor may succeed, but Nascar will fail. Take a look at Jr, Mike Waltrip, or the Hall of Fame. If you don’t cut it and can’t perform you would be eliminated- that is life, but it is also “Sports, Nascar Style”. How long will it take before the hall of fame shuts it’s doors? The end is coming soon. I love racing and the France family is going to bury this sport.

  21. Kevin says:

    The France family rules NASCAR with absolute authority. And they haven’t always been nice to the press. Add in the constant rule changing and performance manipulation, and you get an idea why this talk continues to this day.
    If MLB of the NFL made changes like this, the press would report that they are rigged as well.

  22. PittCaleb says:

    1) The reason it wasn’t a rigged pole was that the margin to win the pole was. I believe, 0.03 seconds. One can not rig the winning of the pole to that degree of precision mechanically. Had he won the pole by a half second, I would agree on a fix. But aside from fudging the timing & scoring system, it could not have been rigged.

    2) To believe that someone in a sport where Rolex’s have been thrown on the track to cause a caution, that a single person with oversight responsibilities could go to a driver or car chief and say, “hey, set your shocks up this way and we’ll let it slide for qualifying, just be sure to put them back for the race.” is completely fathomable. I wouldn’t second guess the allegation it for a second. Dude, I watched a coach put stick-em on the hands of a 3rd grader in my sons basketball game last week!

    3) If Tony K had a legitimate source with proven credentials who told him this information, regardless of your outrage, he did nothing wrong repeating them. Your beef is not with PTI and ESPN in general, but this source who he used. Information is only as good as where it comes from.

    4) Dark horse winners aside, Daytona is always wide open to whomever isn’t broken and towards the front at the end, if you don’t think fans believe NASCAR isn’t rigged ‘towards’ a handful of specific drivers, that punishment isn’t dolled out disproportionately and the playing field not level, then you’re simply delusional. We watch races at 3x FFW these days on the DVR. It’s not the same as it was a decade ago. There are still many things wrong with NASCAR, not the least of which is that they all drive the same car just with different decals on it. It’s IROC, however only 15 cars can win on any given week. Bring back actual cars that look, handle and perform differently for starters.

  23. Dale says:

    “Bernie” Madoff, anyone remember that name. What he did for 40 years and no one was the wiser. I’m sure someone knew what was going on and turned their head. And you ask why? A single word called “INTIMIDATION”.

    Somebody drops in a fat motor, a large plate or what ever. Go ahead and tell the press, tell what you know, that’s the end of your NASCAR days. In a sport where there is so much money involved, it’s shut up or gome home broke.

    Take Bill Elliott for example, he wrote some things in his book that NASCAR didn’t like about safety before Earnhardt was killed. Most of the things he mentioned were changed after Earnhardt’s crash. He still is being blackballed for that. If he was to win a race I don’t believe they would mention his name. They would talk about the second place finisher.

    Where there is big money involved, it can be rigged and you will learn to like it if you want to play our game. It’s our ball and our bat, if you don’t like it go home, or we will make you wish you had. If someone is holding a 38 special at the back of your head, you will do what you are told and shut up. It’s as simple as that!

  24. denny dixson says:

    it’s absolutely rigged if you were the best driver with the best car you could not win without making deals.+ you also hear them telling other drivers to block certen cars on the 2 way radio

  25. Paladin says:

    No one would have to know except the NASCAR person who gives Danica a restrictor plate that is nominal+++tolerance and
    makes sure that everyone else gets the nominal—tolerance plates.

  26. TS says:

    ummm….guys…it is TELEVSION…it is ENTERTAINMENT…NASCAR is a PRIVATE company…they can run their company and produce their TV shows anyway they want to.

    If I was running the NASCAR company my business plan would be get as many fans as possible watching and attending. This is what sells advertising and allows one to increase advertising rates. It also ensures a lot of people are buying NASCAR product which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

    If I want more fans, (customers) then I need to generate INTEREST in my product. This means I write interesting and compelling story lines, produce close seasons, photo finishes and as much DRAMA as I possible can. It is the ulimate reality TV because the goal as a TV producer for this show is to “cook it” for maximum return but ensure the masses don’t know it is reality TV.

    ALL PRO SPORTS are businesses. ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS. Period. That means they are just like movies, television shows, concerts etc. The owners do everything they can to produce the most profitable product possible…and supreme court has ruled they can do just that…because the are PRIVATE companies…they have no mandate to be honest or fair.

    Grow up kids…you are watching a TV show…just like any other TV show, it is make believe. (Think bugs bunny and the road runner)

    Sorry to burst your bubble…it’s just business.

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