NASCAR Appeals Decisions/Bad Day for Black Helicopters -– We had a couple of high-profile penalties in NASCARland amended on appeal in the last few days, and in both cases the appeals adjudicators did NOT say “Whatever you say, Mr. France!!” but rather, “Dude, chill.”
A three-member appeals panel sided with Joe Gibbs Racing on Wednesday and reduced some of the penalties imposed after a push rod in Matt Kenseth’s Toyota engine was found to be overweight by three grams, less than the weight of an envelope. (Story here)
Reinstated the three bonus points he earned for the victory for seeding in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Reduced crew chief Jason Ratcliff's suspension from six races to one race.
Eliminated the six-race suspension for owner Joe Gibbs.
Let stand Ratcliff's $200,000 fine.
Increased Toyota's penalty from a five-point fine to seven points.
Members of the appeal board are: Mark Arute, general manager of Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, Denis McGlynn, CEO of Dover International Speedway and Jack Housby, who fielded cars in the 1970s and `80s. Their message was clearly, “NASCAR, step off.”
NASCAR cannot appeal this decision to the Supreme Arbiter … er … chief appellate officer John Middlebrook, who is essentially NASCAR’s Supreme Court.
Middlebrook did spring into action recently, however, upholding points penalties and fines against Penske Racing for illegal hind parts in their cars, but reduced the six-race suspensions for seven key Penske employees to two points races and the All-Star race. (story here). Not quite the reversal in the NASCAR vs. Gibbs case (I totally just made up that case name), but it also wasn’t a “yessir, Mr. NASCAR, SIR” response either.
The upshot of all this, I think, is that NASCAR’s appeals system is anything but a rubber stamp for The Mothership. That’s going to disappoint black helicopter enthusiasts who think that NASCAR controls the world — including both houses of Congress and various parliaments across the globe — and has their boots on the throats of America, etc. etc.
It also illustrates that the appeals people and NASCAR have different goals, as excellently discussed by Dave Moody here. NASCAR’s goal is to deter all that crazy crap we ALL know is contemplated back in the haulers with people trying to figure out how to game the system or push the rules to the limit for any advantage. The appeals peeps are more about being fair and saying “does the penalty fit the crime, in light of all these other cases?”
Overall NASCAR's disciplinary system seems like a good one. Not overly drawn out; fairness requires that these things be given some time to be heard, after all. I have no opinion on the penalties, except that going nuclear on Gibbs for an envelope-weight overage seemed much. At first I quasi-agreed with the nuking on the grounds that NASCAR needs to send the message that nobody should dick with the engines, but upon further review it seemed kind of over the top. It’s not like inspectors opened up the engine and found 10 cylinders or stealth turbocharger or something.
NASCAR made a good point that the only people they can fine and suspend are teams. They have no power to smack Toyota with penalties (aside from the NASCAR version of constructor’s points), nor do I think Toyota is likely to make themselves subject to NASCAR fines. So, here in the real world — which is different than the ideal world — NASCAR uses the only deterrence it has, that being fining/suspending the teams. Now if the engine makers want to sign agreements that make them liable for NASCAR penalties that would be another deal all together. But let’s not hold our breath on that one.
The net result is a due process system that seems pretty good to me.
Kurt Busch Tests an IndyCar: Legit? Dog-and-Pony PR stunt? Shrewd Promotional Move? — So Flirty Kurty Busch got into Ryan Hunter-Reay’s IndyCar this morning and passed the IndyCar rookie orientation program.
Since I have a day job that sucks up a lot of my brain function, I was aware of the test and thought it was pretty cool, but hadn’t thought much more about it. It did get a lot of attention from The Media when it was announced, which is good. But then this morning via Twitter came the suggestion that this test was just a publicity stunt entered into with the full knowledge that there was no way Busch would ever drive in the Indy 500 or any other IndyCar race.
Honestly the media stunt theory had never occurred to me (in part because I didn’t think that much about it). I figured maybe he was testing now and maybe would race in 2014, or that there was some sponsor lurking somewhere who would pony up righteous cash if Busch looked good and wanted to try it this year.
My immediate reaction was “you lied to me!” when I considered it was just a PR thing. But, upon further review, nobody lied to me, I just made assumptions. So what if it IS just to get media attention? I was OK with it after I mulled it for a while. At this point in IndyCar’s life (pessimists would say “death spiral”), any pub is good pub.
I tweeted out a question about what others thought about it and I got mostly all people saying they were fine with it even if it was just a publicity stunt. That’s still a supposition, by the way. I haven’t heard anyone who would know say it was all for show.
A news conference is happening very soon in Indy wherein I hope Busch talks about his reactions to driving RHR’s car. It will be interesting to see what a NASCAR veteran has to say about that. I suspect he won’t rule out an Indy 500 run … someday. I’d love to see Busch enter the race. Assuming he qualified, he’d bring welcome added personality to the event. Maybe Busch would swagger in and be less than worshipful of IMS, becoming the black hat for the race. THAT would be awesome. OR he would represent the NASCAR banner (indirectly) and that would get a bunch of NASCAR fans to pay attention to the race hoping Busch shows those snooty open-wheelers a thing or two.
Back when Champ Car existed, I was all for a Hatfields vs. McCoy’s Indy 500 marketing theme that had IndyCar drivers vs. Champ Car drivers to see who rules IMS. Alas, that idea was in the minority. But us vs. them conflict generates more attention, in my view. Hell, let’s get four or five NASCAR drivers into the race and have a full-on Battle at the Brickyard THROW DOWN. Cue TMS promoter Eddie Gossage boxing posters. In this case you get more viewers with vinegar than honey.
And if we’re just going for publicity, maybe IndyCar should encourage NASCAR drivers to “enter to win a free test at IMS!!!” Make it a sweepstakes! OK, that’s going a bit far. But bring in a few other drivers for tests now and then, like Kimi Räikkönen. I’d seriously have an excitement-induced stroke if Kimi tested an IndyCar anywhere.
Here's Kurt's post-race interview with ESPN
Speaking of Kumbaya, Festival of Positive Peer Pressure -- I seriously wrote this as part of a fireside chat about three times and deleted it each time, but here we go …
So, there are a LOT of people who are very very fired up about the month of May at IMS. Fair enough. No criticism of them from me, ever. But — and maybe this is just me — I feel a ton of pressure to climb aboard the hyper positive Indy 500 train these days. More than usual. Maybe it’s because there just aren’t a lot of bloggers left who are willing to be critical (who aren't full-on haters). I talked on the down low with another blogger type who said he (or she!) feels the same pressure to keep it sunshiny.
I’m not even sure why I am telling you this, aside from the influence of the lunch beer. There have always been people who think unanimously positive blogs will help the sport grow. I very much disagree with that, because you can’t blow sunshine up people’s ass in general, it doesn’t do any organization any good to hear how great it is 24/7, and living in denial of weaknesses is no way to strengthen them. I’m going to keep on doing what I do, that being talking about the good, bad and ugly in what I see as a fair, Golden-Rule-Based (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) fashion.
Maybe it’s just me. When a group is enraptured and celebratory, I hate to be the guy who pisses on the mood even slightly, so maybe it’s self censorship. Anyway, I’m gonna press on. I’ve never been afraid to criticize when I think it’s fair before, so we’ll stick with that approach.
I’ll update with links to stories based on the KuBu PC (press conference). That’s it for now. Back to work, ye BASTARDS. NASCAR at Darlington this Saturday night. F1 at Spain (GO KIMI!). Consult your local listings.