Wednesday, April 01, 2015

COMMENTARY: "It's Only Cheating If You Get Caught"

I have no idea whether Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 team is guilty of illegally altering its tires at Auto Club Speedway two weeks ago.

I know NASCAR has accused them of doing so and assessed a series of sanctions that will almost certainly be subject to appeal. Only after those appeals are heard will the word “allegedly” be removed from their sentence. That’s only fair, and it’s the correct way for the sport to proceed.

I am certain, however, that RCR’s brush with the stock car racing law has once again revealed an extremely ugly side of our sport’s collective psyche. All across North America, NASCAR fans are once again rushing to defend what appears – allegedly -- to be a blatant violation of rules by one of the sport’s top teams.

“It’s only cheating if you get caught,” they say, citing one of the lamest yarns in the history of the sport.

Say that out loud and listen to the words. “It’s only cheating if you get caught.”

That is a sad state of mind, my friends, and one that most people would never espouse outside the sport of stock car racing. It says a lot about us as human beings, and none of what it says is good.

John Wooden summed it up perfectly when he said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

The legendary UCLA basketball coach Wooden was right, and it’s time for us to follow his lead and divest ourselves of the antiquated and thoroughly erroneous belief that if you’re not cheating, you’re not competing.

Among all professional sports, ours stands alone in applauding dishonesty, poor sportsmanship and a disregard for the rules of fair play. Virtually anywhere else in the world, breaking the rules is a sign of low moral character. But in NASCAR, getting caught with your hand in the competitive cookie jar is grounds for a clap on the back and an “attaboy.” Get caught with an illegal engine, shock absorbers or tires, and a significant portion of NASCAR Nation stands and cheers.

There’s something wrong with that.

Embezzle funds from your employer, and you can check your reputation at the door on your way to prison. Steal a win at the race track and be lauded for ingenuity and creativity. Somewhere along the line, we have come to view a willful disregard for of the rules as something to be respected, rather than condemned.

It’s gotten to the point where stock car racers can now be lumped in with used car salesmen and politicians as people unworthy of our trust. And for that, we have only ourselves to blame. Sticking a needle in the sidewall of a Goodyear Eagle on race day is no different than sticking a needle full of steroids in your backside on game day. Both are against the rules. Both are done in an effort to obtain the unfair advantage. Only one, however, is endorsed with a wink and a nudge.

“It’s only cheating if you get caught.” Try telling that to your wife tonight, before grabbing an ice pack to nurse the lump on your head caused by that flying skillet.

Cheating is cheating and wrong is wrong, no matter whether anyone’s watching or not.

We all struggle with temptation, and we all stray from the straight and narrow sometimes. I’ve done it myself, making poor life decisions that – looking back – I wish I would change. Being a top NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief does not exempt someone from temptation. In fact, in an era of multi-million dollar paydays, the reward for “getting away with it” is greater than ever.

People can be forgiven for making poor choices. They’re human, after all. Patently unacceptable, however, is the belief that you’re only wrong if you get caught. 

25 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:52 PM

    Most of what you say and how you say it turns me off. However here, I think I agree. Innovation needs to happen in our sport. NASCAR's box is so tight that innovation turns to blatant cheating which is sad. Poking holes in tires seems so childish when compared to the T Rex car, Smokey Yunick's work, the dawn of the winged cars and Harry Gants cambered rear end.

    A nice balance being struck would be nice. The work of innovative engineers and mechanics is just as good as Picasso or Rembrandt. F1 is too wide open & NASCAR is too closed. Somewhere in the middle would be nice.

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  2. touchee10:19 PM

    "Its only cheating if you get caught" is what fans say when its not Chad Knaus. He has been "ahead of time" on more then one occaision, and because of the success he should be banned from racing when something comes down. Fans complain about NASCAR not having consistancy but the fans are just as bad. Its competion at a high level for a big dollar, doesn't matter the sport, teams look for advantage. Right or wrong. Its the rule book that decides, not the fans, just enjoy the racing. Not much to complain about there.

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  3. Anonymous10:56 PM

    I've never been so disheartened listening to your show than I was today. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. I was stunned.

    It is a reflection in the lack of character in our society today. I always felt NASCAR was the last bastion of character in sports. We didn't have the rapists, or the wife beaters. We are a family oriented sport. Its a vacation to go to a race. You don't go for one day, you pitch a tent, set up camp, and share a common passion with strangers who become life long friends. There is character in our sport still. I've seen it first hand, and like to think I am a man of it.

    About 18 years ago, I was in a clients office. They had a Norman Rockwell self portrait with John Wooden's quote. I've never forgotten that image, or that quote. Today's show was filled with a whole bunch of callers that need to see that image. The scary part is they are parents! Passing down a lack of character to a future that doesn't know any better than 'what my Diddy told me'.

    I hope the small cross section we heard from too much today, isn't an indication of where we are headed.I did appreciate your attempts at levity. It was just sad that nobody seemed to get it.

    -Ted.

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  4. Anonymous10:58 PM

    Caught or not, cheating is cheating and is done so at a cost. With today's funding so reliant on corporate sponsorship from companies that are very concerned about reputation risk, there is no reason why a team should put that sponsorship at risk by cheating.

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  5. Being a lifelong racer I try to be a "student" of the sport. The stories of the true innovators of the sport Smokey, Junior, Evernham all worked in areas that weren't covered by the rulebook (yet!!). I don't think that a huge fuel line in Smokey's car was cheating because there was no rule at the time. As soon as NASCAR found the loophole and closed it anyone found doing it WAS CHEATING because there was now a rule. The current tire rule is VERY specific. Any proven modification to the tire IS CHEATING and should NOT be celebrated.

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  6. Anonymous2:03 AM

    hhhhhmmmmm

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  7. Anonymous2:29 AM

    Well said. IMHO that issue, along with the perceived credibility of the sanctioning body,(although they may be two sides of the same coin) is a major stumbling block to the growth of the sport.

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  8. Anonymous8:17 AM

    Thank you! Well said! Please send this to the two broadcast networks on-air teams...

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  9. The NASCAR Jeff8:52 AM

    While on your show Ray Evernham pretty much admitted that the 24 car was almost legal when he was at Hendrick Motorsports where cheating is permitted and the owner pays the fines without batting an eye.

    I heard a caller on The Morning Drive tell Mike and Pete he will "boycott ALL of RCR's sponsors and all the fans should do the same." If we all did that Lowes would be out of business every time Chad Knaus got "creative" and got caught.

    Look, cheating in sports is not new, Pine Tar and corked bats in baseball, shaving points in basketball and deflated balls in football. Its going to happen.

    What NASCAR should and needs to do is disqualify any team who gets caught cheating. Take wins and finishing places, point and prize money away and fine them on top of that.

    Remember when Dick Beatty suspend the whole Junior Johnson Budwieser 11 team for having a big engine and he put the car in his then wifes name so they could race?

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  10. Anonymous8:52 AM

    First of all, most "cheating" in NASCAR is not cheating at all but interpreting the rules (poorly written rules, usually) differently than NASCAR does. This tire issue is NOT that way. It is cheating as it is specifically banned. If there are grey areas in the rules, they are always going to be exploited and it is NOT cheating.

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  11. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Outside the area of motorsports one would espouse it as performance enhancing drugs.

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  12. Amen! Pass the offering plate and let's eat a potluck!

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  13. Anonymous9:45 AM

    You need to tell that one to Chad Knaus and I'll bet he'd laugh in your face. I'm not saying you are wrong, but NASCAR was built on doing whatever it took to win races. Less and less places for innovation since NASCAR introduced the COT and right along with that, the racing has become far less interesting to watch.

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  14. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Not to belittle the driving prowess of Ryan Newman in any way, shape or form but last season's late surge to second place in the Chase and their solid start to this season really did seemingly come out of nowhere. In fact can you imagine the storm of controversy this would have created had the 31 crew walked away with the championship last year?

    As serious as this infraction is NASCAR dodged a very large bullet here. The integrity of the sport is brought into question often enough but if not for one place in the standings in 2014 it could have been potentially devastating.

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  15. Anonymous11:01 AM

    AMEN! Huge difference between pushing the limits in the "gray" areas of the rule book and outright cheating.

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  16. Jeremy11:25 AM

    Completely agree. And what I really don't like is the notion that teams are pushing the envelope with this issue; or "just working in the gray area." That is completely inaccurate. In this case, the rule is perfectly black and white: don't alter the tires. There is no envelope to push. It's just the envelope and it is sealed. Don't touch it. This is not some "stepping out on a limb" incident. This is an incident where the team saw the huge barrier that NASCAR said not to cross, and they did it anyway. If other teams are doing it then they need to be punished as well. Every one of them. If we don't like it, then take it up with NASCAR because it's their rule.

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  17. Anonymous11:36 AM

    Been proud how you have handled this and the Indiana issue.

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  18. What would be wrong with legalizing the valve stem bleeders, which are used, legally, in many other forms of motor racing? Not having to restart with all the cars running 7 psi or some other absurdly low air pressure in the tires would be a huge safety improvement.

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  19. Anonymous3:41 AM

    this is all so funny. if nascar has always been a bunch of hillbilly cheaters for years whay have radio personalities tv commentators and driver from everywhere come to such a horrible cheating sport? give me a break stop destroying the sport get over it

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    Replies
    1. Maybe before you start calling people a bunch of hillbilly cheaters, you could elevate your spelling, grammar and punctuation skills above the fourth-grade level.

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    2. Anonymous2:20 PM

      Dave, your better than that. I understand your frustration with the a few of these comments but no need to belittle someone who does not have the skills you do in grammar. They have an opportunity just like I do or anyone else does to post a comment on your page. Good or bad. I enjoy your straight forward commentaries the most. I am a carpenter, that's what I'm good at, not spelling or grammer but I like to post my opinion every once in a while regardless. I've gone to NASCAR races in Pocono, New Hampshire, Dover, Richmond, Talladega, Daytona 500, and Bristol. Richmond, Pocono, Richmond and Daytona more then once. I live In Mass and often head to Thunder Road, Bear Ridge, Monadnock and Stafford Springs. I feel when you have a post you dislike you can do a better job in your replies, Try using a little honey or maple syrup to keep them in the sport rather then persecuting them and potentially losing a fan. Just a thought.

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    3. "Anonymous," if you want to come to my house (blog), you're always welcome. But if you want to come to my house, insult me and take a dump on the living room rug, you have no right to expect me to be a gracious host.

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  20. Considering how John Wooden benefited from a UCLA booster by the name of Sam Gilbert paying off players in the 60's & 70's, using quotes from Wooden about character probably isn't the best way to make your point on cheating.

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  21. Does anyone know specifically what RCR or any member of the team did? I'd sure like to see SOME evidence of something illegal before I write a big, long-winded, soapbox speech about cheating.

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    Replies
    1. Andrew, concentrate REALLY hard and re-read the first sentence of the story. This was not a story about RCR, it was a story about NASCAR's acceptance of cheating over the last 60+ years. Sorry you didn't pick up on that.

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