“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.