Monday, August 15, 2016

COMMENTARY: NASCAR Backed Into A New Corner

For the second time this season, NASCAR may be on the verge of instituting a new rule, mandating nothing more than common sense.

NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said last week that the sanctioning body is considering a new addition to its already voluminous rule book, outlawing (or at least reining-in) post-race victory celebrations. O’Donnell’s comments came less than 24 hours after Watkins Glen winner Denny Hamlin appeared to intentionally destroy the rear end of his winning Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, smoking the rear tires until they exploded and tore away much of the car’s rear bodywork.

O’Donnell called Hamlin’s exuberance “a trend we don’t like to see,’’ acknowledging widespread speculation that recent incidents of tire blowing and body shredding are less about happiness and more about the desire to mask subtle rule violations.

“We want to see a celebration, and we think that drivers can celebrate without doing that,” said O’Donnell. “So you’ll probably see us -- sooner than later -- put something in place that covers us for that. We’re talking to a lot of the teams about it, and I think everybody is on board with the direction we want to go in.’’

Unfortunately, this is familiar territory for NASCAR. Just a few weeks ago, the sanctioning body was strong-armed back into the lug nut enforcement business, after drivers Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle publicly accused them of being soft on driver and fan safety. The end result was cockamamie – and largely unenforceable -- rule requiring all teams to have 20 lug nuts installed and secure, at all times.

Currently, section 8.5.2.1.c of the Sprint Cup Rule Book reads; “the first-place vehicle may engage in appropriate celebratory activity (such as a victory lap, burn-out(s) or donuts) prior to reporting to victory circle.” Now, it appears that additional, more specific language may need to be crafted, prohibiting the winning jockey from entering Victory Lane at the Kentucky Derby, then shooting Secretariat in celebration.

Despite O’Donnell’s assertion that everyone in the Sprint Cup Series garage is “on board” with the proposed new decree, an informal survey of drivers and crew chiefs at Watkins Glen International revealed that most actually oppose the proposed rule change. This, despite veiled admissions that post-race victory celebrations do indeed include a healthy dose of evidence tampering.

Last October, after Kevin Harvick buzzed his tires to the point of failure at Dover, Hamlin spoke openly about the tactic, saying, “We all know what we’re doing. Nothing we do is without merit. As drivers, we know when a tire is about to blow and sometimes, we continue to put the throttle to it. The winner is the only one that’s able to damage his car after the race, without it being too obvious.”

Former series champion Brad Keselowski sang a similar tune, saying, ‘I’ve definitely blown tires out (on purpose). I think every driver has done something to do some kind of damage to their car.’’

Clearly, there’s more happening here than simple celebration. And the longer NASCAR declines to act, the more exaggerated the post-race donuts will become. As they always do, teams will continue to push the competitive envelope until the sanctioning body steps in to pull back on the reins.

It’s really quite silly.

At the risk of sounding like Walter Matthau in the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” I remember the days when post-race victory celebrations included a lap with the checkered flag in hand, followed by some champagne spraying and the kissing of a Trophy Queen in the Winner’s Circle. Everyone seemed happy, but none felt the need to express their joy by destroying the winning car.

Today, however, when the difference between victory and defeat is often measured in 10,000ths of an inch, self-restraint has become passe’. Now, it’s all about “burning them down” and backing the car into the nearest concrete wall, in an effort to mask the subtle (and probably illegal) modifications that brought it to Victory Lane in the first place.

With the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup just a few short weeks away, NASCAR appears ready to act, joining the NFL – dubbed the “No Fun League” for its hard line on all things celebratory – by outlawing post-race hijinks and mandating simple common sense.

Soon enough, they’ll be taking undamaged cars to the NASCAR Research and Development Center for Monday morning inspection, and Secretariat will live to run another day.




26 comments:

  1. Charlie9:20 AM

    Why bother when they are going to allow illegal cars to keep the win anyways.

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  2. Anonymous9:39 AM

    1. The RTA always asks the rhetorical question: "How do we save the Teams money?" Duh...
    2. The Officials ask: "How do we check the Ride Height?" Duh...
    3. The Crew Chief asks: "How much gas was left and what was tire wear?" Duh...
    4. The little kid asks: "Daddy, where's the beautiful car that won the race?" Duh...
    5. The Crew asks: "Why do we have to fix this again?" Duh...
    6. The Driver asks: "Where's my ride to my jet so we can party?" Duh...

    Mr. Obvious asks: "Does condoning this childish nonsense make any sense to the integrity of the Sport?"

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  3. I don't see the issue. If you win and the car fails post-race, the win stands and you are still locked into the chase. The most that happens is a fine or probation. Start stripping wins and require the driver present the car just how they finished the race. If they destroy the car after the checkers, the crew chief sits out a race.

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    1. Anonymous1:53 PM

      Why only the crew chief? Why not the driver? Imagine the conversation between team and sponsor(s) as to why there product is being associated with a cheat.

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  4. Anonymous10:12 AM

    NASCAR if there isn't a rule, they'll make one. They wonder why people are leaving in droves. They've made it so structured and rigid that except for wait, you can't stand on the roof of the car either, oh well nothing to see here no celebration necessary.

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  5. It is sad that Nascar has to step in and regulate the victory celebration, who gets hurt the most? The fans. Do I like to see the burn outs, YES I don't like it when they tear up the car, that is just disrespect of the car, some people may like it, unfortunately Nascar will be stopping it, how much, only time will tell. Lug nuts, now over celebration, what's next?

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  6. Warren11:12 AM

    NASCAR gone to far with there rules it's not racing anymore

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    1. It's not? What does blowing donuts (and your own tires) have to do with racing? Was it racing for all those years BEFORE drivers felt the need to destroy their own cars after the checkered flag?

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    2. I agree Dave! Nothing wrong w/ a burn out but don't overdo it, don't wreck the car. And w/o rules it would be so freakin expensive many couldn't afford it.

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  7. If their concern is genuine, such accusations of wrong-doing seemingly places the entire NASCAR pre race tech inspection process in question, since (in my mind, anyway), if such wrongdoing IS taking place, why isn't anything noticed at that point?--yes, there is to be a post-race inspection as well but it becomes impossible to perform and compare the data when the car is so badly torn up...my non-racing friends have asked me: "why do they do THAT?" And I feel the need to concoct an answer which adequately explains it to their satisfaction!

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  8. Dwayne in Memphis11:55 AM

    This long, well-written article and not a single mention of Chad's 2011 "crack the back" comment from Talladega?

    They're cracking the backs and blowing the tires for the same reason they jumped on the roof. "Your car is too low." Well of course it is! Didn't you see how happy I was for winning and how long I jumped up and down on the roof.

    Their "modifications" are as obvious as Sterling Marlin jumping out and grabbing the front fender at Daytona in 2002.

    Like you said, it's obvious and common sense - but teams have gotten so blatant and unrepentant about it, that they finally had to put a rule in...simply to keep up the illusion than cheating doesn't exist.

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  9. Anonymous12:35 PM

    I can remember being told after a victory to act like I have been there before, and it really seems like the people who seem to be the worst are the ones that win the most. Practice I guess, but who really thinks that is what the fans came to see.Not me.

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  10. Jonathan Brosilo12:52 PM

    Us fans absolutely love the BURNOUT!!! If you do away with the burnouts I'm sure more and more fans will be driven away... The Burnout is sorta a way of thanking the fans for sticking around... What about when every touchdown in the NFL they dance and cheer is what it is... I and many fans love the burnouts we get to see some smoke smell the burning rubber...most comments on social media say keep it how it is. theres enough checking of the body pre race that it should allowed. I FOR ONE SAY KEEP THE BURNOUTS I GO CRAZY FOR THEM THE FIRST TIME I SAW IT IN 2004 AND STILL DO THE SAME EVERY TIME I SEE IT NOW! I get mad when a driver just drives into victory lane its like seriously are you not happy you just won a 4 hour long race. KEEP THE BURNOUT or Nascar will loose even more fans and at times like this is that really what we need?

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  11. Quality of cheating has hit rock bottom. Smokey never had to resort to anything so obvious. That's why he's in the Hall of Fame! What? Oh! Never mind, he never kissed the necessary derrières.

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  12. Mark Martin never did that ludicrous crap.

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    1. Anonymous12:18 PM

      Mark Martin was and still is all class.

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  13. Seems to me is as simple as a good pre qualifying inspection and then impound the cars.No reason the cars cant race like they qualify/qualify like they race. F1 has been doing that successfully for years, so it can be done. Otherwise youre giving the teams a loophole to cheat.

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    1. Jonathan Brosilo9:04 PM

      so true! Impound them after they inspect them its simple! Otherwise your taking more fun away from the sport we love I like what your saying Russ! Someone needs to float this ideal to Nascar instead of taking the fun away! I'm sorry but the burnout are sooo BAD A**! I remember the first race I ever watched that got me hooked 12 years ago this Saturday night the Bristol Night race in 2004 Dale Jr burned em down like no other it was like wow amazing! Go on youtube look it up Dale Jr wins Bristol 2004 watch that burnout... Please Nascar don't do away with the burnout it will be the worst. that's a part of the allure of Nascar!

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  14. Anonymous6:36 PM

    What happens if a team supposedly cheats, and then does not win? They can't blow the tires off destroying bodywork, wouldn't be able to pull into a wall to damage nose,or rear of the car, won't be able to melt down the engine or shred the transmission. All they would do is collect a p-2, or a p-3. After all the winner is not predetermined before final practice.

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  15. Jonathan Brosilo8:53 PM

    I have one more thing to say... If that was Dale Jr who did those burn outs the past 2 weeks this would be a non issue! He did it a Richmond in what 2006 burned it down till the tires were gone! No one said a word then. Nascar needs to seriously let this go. What do you think Dave? Just curious

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  16. Anonymous1:33 AM

    What is the big deal? NASCAR DOES NOTHING ANYWAYS. LOOK AT MATTY KENSETH, nothing of value..a slap on the wrist and a timeout in the corner, a win kept, and a place in the stupid Chase kept. Come one NASCAR come down hard or not at all!

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  17. I have often wondered when I see these massive burn outs if they are trying hide something. I had never really thought about it until the Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus conversation a few years back.

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  18. Strip the JGR No. 11 Team of the Watkins Glen win, throw the Car, driver and Team out of the Chase, suspend the driver, Team and Car for 5 races.

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    1. Anonymous8:56 PM

      Umm...that MIGHT be a little harsh.

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  19. Considering very few cars actually fail post-race inspection, I call complete BS on this whole thing. You would think if this was a wide spread problem, then the guys finishing 2nd-5th and/or whoever gets taken to the R&D center would get caught violating something.

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