Wednesday, April 23, 2008

COMMENTARY: Sellers Ruling Means Nothing In The Cup Garage

NASCAR stripped Peyton Sellers of his victory in the Camping World East Series race at in South Carolina’s Greenville-Pickens Speedway Saturday night, and nobody seems to be sure what (if anything) it means for the rest of NASCAR.

Both Sellers and team owner Andy Santerre say the violation was unintentional, and Santerre told Sirius Speedway Wednesday that he sold the shock absorber in question -- as part of a set of four -- to a now-defunct Hooters Pro Cup Series team, then bought them back when that team folded a short time later. One of the shocks ended up on Sellers’ car Saturday night, and when NASCAR disassembled it in post-race inspection, they discovered it to be illegal.

“There are two things that could have happened,” said Santerre. “Either we built it wrong in the first place, or something got changed afterward.” Santerre said he does not dispute the fact that the part in question was illegal, but insists that the sanction is unfairly severe. NASCAR has handled similar violations in the past with monetary fines, point penalties and crewchief suspensions, allowing the victory to stand. ASM’s crewchief, H.C. Sellers, was suspended for three races.

The top-five cars in each Camping World East Series race have their transmissions, rear-end gears and shocks inspected, and Santerre said, “It would be stupid to do something that blatant intentionally when we know it will be checked.” The longtime driver and team owner was critical of NASCAR’s handling of the situation, saying, “The guys that make the decisions like this for our series are not the ones that are at the tracks every week seeing the competitors and how they cooperate. This has a big effect on me in this sport. We’re one of the only developmental teams in the series, and we know that we need to keep a clean reputation. I can’t stress enough how important it is to me to have legal cars that pass tech.” NASCAR has said that the penalty cannot be appealed.

ASM Motorsports Vice President Sue Santerre (wife of Andy Santerre) told Sirius Speedway today, “The decision to strip the win from Andy and Peyton was made by committee from the R&D Center. NASCAR will not reveal who is on the committee. Andy specifically asked (Camping World East Director) Lee Roy if Mike Helton was aware of this decision. Lee instructed us he was the final signature. It is our understanding that Lee Roy and Tech Director, Andy Mitchell have no say in the committee decision.”

The consensus of opinion across much of NASCAR Nation is that last weekend’s decision somehow sends a message to the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series. In this reporter’s opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. My experience –- drawn from more than 30 years of racing at the local and regional levels -- is that NASCAR does not govern its grassroots series’ the way it governs the so-called “big three.” And as a result, the events of last Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens Speedway will likely have no impact on anything that happens this weekend at either Talladega or Kansas.

In a nutshell, NASCAR has one way of dealing with the little guys, and another way of dealing with the big guys. That’s not necessarily wrong, either, since regional racing is -– in many ways -– completely different from what's happening at the top of the NASCAR ladder. No one would argue that a short-track Late Model should be built according to the Sprint Cup rulebook, and the procedures used to govern Sunday’s race at Talladega would result in pandemonium at your local quarter-mile dirt track.

NASCAR’s decision will have wide-reaching impact at the local and regional levels of the sport. But at the top of the ladder, my expectation is that it will be business as usual.

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