NASCAR issued the inaugural fines of the season on Tuesday – in fact they were the inaugural fines for a newish team too. If you missed the penalty announcement or the act itself, NASCAR found:
The No. 15 truck driven by Michael Waltrip was to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR Officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20B-3.1.2E (rear spoiler did not meet specifications in post-race inspection) of the 2011 NASCAR Rule Book. As a result, crew chief Doug Howe has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Owner Billy Ballew has been penalized with the loss of 25 championship owner points.
This of course is for the spoiler “issue” the team had toward the end of Waltrip’s emotional Daytona win. After initially saying it looked like a part failure, NASCAR apparently decided something different because they don’t generally issue fines for part failures – and if they do the team generally appeals.
Now in the interest of fairness how do you award a win to a driver or team that is found to have been in violation of the rules at the time of that win?
The NCAA certainly has a take on that. Ask USC. NASCAR though never really has been in the business of taking wins away from drivers who fail post-race inspections. They see it as a matter of a team deciding to push the envelope and a driver not necessarily being involved. Why punish the driver for an action of the team?
The argument though runs into trouble because the driver is ultimately given an unfair advantage over a competitor. In the Michael Waltrip spoiler situation, Elliott Sadler said in the post-race:
Though he concedes that he thinks Waltrip would have won anyway, who knows? And shouldn’t it say something that NASCAR likely would have black flagged the #15 if this had happened on lap 10 as opposed to the last lap? I’m not really sure how many of you feel about this but I have a lot issues with it.
Lately NASCAR’s been stepping up the point and monetary fines given to teams found to have violated the rulebook. In the last several seasons record fines have been doled out. The thing is, if NASCAR really wants for teams to play by the rules they need to give them incentive to do so. Taking a win or two away from drivers whose teams don’t follow the letter of the law will send that message.
I have a feeling that won’t be happening in the near term though.