It’s been two weeks since the discovery of an illegal fuel additive in Michael Waltrip’s NAPA Toyota at Daytona International Speedway, and still no explanation of how it happened.
NASCAR officials discovered the illegal compound in Waltrip’s fuel on February 14, docking the veteran driver 100 driver/owner points, ejecting crewchief David Hyder and Competition Director Bobby Kennedy from the speedway, suspending both men indefinitely, and fining Hyder $100,000.
In an emotional press conference the following day, Waltrip professed his innocence, saying he had no personal involvement in the scandal, and did not know (or approve) of the illegal substance. He blamed the controversy on the unauthorized actions of one of more of his employees, and promised to terminate those involved.
Today – 14 days later -- there have been no terminations, and no explanations.
Michael Waltrip Racing spokesman Ty Norris said earlier this week that the team continues to search for the guilty party. Norris has spoken repeatedly with Hyder – who was suspended with pay by the team following his ejection from the speedway -- offering to guarantee his employment in exchange for a full accounting of what happened.
Despite the auto racing equivalent of immunity from prosecution, however, Hyder insists he knows nothing.
Is it realistic to believe that the crewchief, Director of Competition and team owner were all blissfully ignorant of what was going on in their own shop? Probably not. Something so blatant, so egregious could hardly be done to Waltrip’s racecar without someone in authority knowing about it, or at least being able to find out about it by now. Information travels fast in this business. A man running at full speed cannot make it to the far end of the Nextel Cup garage before the juicy new rumor about him does. It’s foolish to think that something like this can be kept quiet for a day, much less two weeks.
The information is out there. Someone knows what happened, and it’s time to come clean.
As the days continue to tick by, Waltrip is in danger of becoming a sanitized version of O.J. Simpson. Simpson swore he would clear his name by finding the “real killer,” but instead spends his time searching golf course sandtraps around the globe. Waltrip professes his innocence as well, but seems to be making little progress in uncovering the culprit within his own walls.
Mikey hasn’t cut anyone’s throat -- other than perhaps his own – and it is unfair to paint everyone at MWR with the same guilty brush. Perhaps Hyder indeed acted alone. Perhaps Kennedy is to blame. Maybe Waltrip authorized the whole dirty scheme, or perhaps the mysterious, unnamed fourth party who requested a leave of absence at the height of the controversy is to blame.
No one knows, or at least no one’s telling. And the longer this mystery goes unsolved, the more everyone involved begins to appear guilty by association.