Thursday, March 06, 2008

Commission Ruling Good For Gordon, Not For NASCAR

I have no doubt that Robby Gordon Motorsports did not intentionally mount an unapproved nose on their car at Daytona. An honest mistake by Dodge –sending the offending part instead of the appropriate, NASCAR-approved nose – was compounded by team members who installed it without noticing the difference. It could happen to anyone, especially someone in a rush to complete a full-bore manufacturer swap in just four days.

Like they adage says, haste makes waste.

No matter what, though, Gordon’s Jim Beam Dodge was not correct when presented for pre-qualifying inspection at Daytona. And someone has to be held accountable for that fact.

NASCAR handled the situation exactly has they have in the past, docking Gordon’s team 100 driver and owner points, and suspending crewchief Frank Kerr for six races. They declined to consider intent -- just as they have in every other case of this type over the last two years – displaying the kind of consistency fans say they want from their sanctioning body.

Gordon also did all the right things, pleading his case with a perfect mix of apology and indignance. Dodge Motorsports took full blame for the screw-up, tossing around “mea culpas” like rose petals at a high-society wedding. Sponsor Jim Beam mounted an effective public relations campaign on Gordon’s behalf, allowing him to arrive at yesterday’s hearing with armloads of petitions from NASCAR fans pleading for leniency. In the end, the National Stock Car Racing Commission sided with Gordon, eliminating the driver and owner points penalties, and reinstating crewchief Kerr.

The commission may have done the right thing for Robby Gordon and his team. They have not, however, done right by the sport as a whole.

In the aftermath of yesterday’s ruling, no driver, crewchief or team can ever again be held accountable for illegal or unapproved parts found on their racecar. Effective immediately, “I didn’t mean to” has become an acceptable excuse for any rules-related transgression.

A clear precedent has been sent, and it can never be undone.

Carl Edwards’ Roush-Fenway team now has a guaranteed excuse for that loose oil reservoir tank cover at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. All they have to say is, “We didn’t mean to.”

Any driver who speeds on pit road can now invoke the “Whoopsy Daisy Defense,” blaming a minor manufacturer’s flaw in their tachometer for an inaccurate reading.

Illegal engine parts can now be explained away simply by saying, “It came that way from the manufacturer.”

Beginning today, teams are no longer responsible for the parts and pieces bolted onto their cars. The National Stock Car Racing Commission has seen to that.

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