What a sad, strange existence these NASCAR conspiracy theorists lead.
No sooner had Austin Dillon captured the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500 than the Black Helicopter pilots began to circulate. Rather than allowing Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing teammates to bask in the glow of their much-deserved accomplishment, a small but determined band of cuckoo birds chose to shed their aluminum-foil hats long enough to declare the accomplishment too good to be true.
Dillon, of course, is the driver chosen by team owner Richard Childress to return RCR’s legendary No. 3 Chevrolet to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, 13 years after it was last driven by the late-great Dale Earnhardt. The return of the No. 3 to Daytona has understandably generated a good deal of attention. Unfortunately, it has also provided the Zombie Apocalypse cult members with a reason to fabricate their latest NASCAR fairy tale.
While facts are generally unwelcome in a discussion of this sort, we’ll attempt to interject a few, just for the fun of it.
FACT: Dillon is not your run-of-the-mill rookie. He is the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and claimed the NASCAR Nationwide Series title a year ago. He is also a former Rookie of the Year on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (2008), Camping World Truck Series (2010) and Nationwide Series (2012). After claiming the pole Sunday, Dillon jumped into a DIRTcar UMP Modified at Volusia Speedway Park in Barnerville, Fla. and won the feature there. Bottom line? The kid’s got talent.
FACT: Dillon is not the first rookie to win a Daytona 500 pole. In fact, he is the second freshman campaigner to grab the top spot in as many years. He joins Loy Allen Jr. (1994), Mike Skinner (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2002) and Danica Patrick (2013) as rookie Daytona 500 pole winners.
FACT: Most of the Sasquatch spotters touting a Dillon/NASCAR conspiracy said the exact same thing a year ago about Patrick.
FACT: Dillon had plenty of familiar company at the front of the pack yesterday. He and his RCR teammates captured three of the Top-10 spots in qualifying Sunday, with Ryan Newman fifth and Paul Menard 10th.
FACT: Outside pole sitter Martin Truex, Jr., was among the fastest drivers in Daytona 500 practice, despite not taking part in preseason testing and logging only two laps on the 2-5-mile superspeedway prior to qualifying. Truex drives for Furniture Row racing, which utilizes chassis from RCR and engines from Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines.
FACT: Dillon, Newman, Menard and Truex were all at (or near) the top of the charts in practice all this week. Anyone surprised by their performance Sunday was clearly not paying attention.
If they take time off from their unwanted alien orifice probes and do a little independent thinking, the conspiracy buffs may realize that a scam of this type would be impossible to keep secret. In order for Dillon (or any other driver) to be handed an illicit Daytona 500 pole, every other team in the garage would need to be in on the plan. And without a lifelong vow of silence by every driver, crew chief, team member and NASCAR official in the sport, such a secret could never be kept.
As Michael Waltrip can surely attest, it’s impossible to keep a secret in NASCAR, even for a moment.
Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Jack Roush and Roger Penske would never lie down for RCR in this manner; not for all the money in the world. And even if they did, it would only be a matter of time until they demanded their own clandestine piece of the pie.
Once that particular Pandora’s Box is opened, the sport is as good as dead. Brian France knows it, Mike Helton knows it and you know it too.
It’s a ludicrous, loony and unfair assertion, fatally flawed in premise and lacking in both motive and opportunity. So while the conspiracy buffs convene on their Grassy Knoll amid allegations of impropriety, skullduggery and intrigue, the rest of – the thinking majority – will count the minutes until they’re back on track once again at the World Center Of Racing.