Thursday, November 29, 2018

Patricia Driscoll Convicted On Multiple Federal Charges

Patricia Driscoll
Patricia Driscoll was convicted today in Washington DC Federal Court on five counts of first-degree fraud, wire fraud and income tax evasion.
Driscoll, the estranged former girlfriend of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, was found guilty on two counts of tax evasion, two counts of wire fraud and a single count of first-degree fraud after being accused of misappropriating at least at least $500,000 earmarked for the Armed Forces Foundation to assist military members and their families.
Driscoll was convicted of using those funds to purchase jewelry, alcohol and other personal items, as well as to pay personal attorneys’ fees and expenses for her security firm, Frontline Defense Systems. Statements from the AFF – which shut down as a result of the controversy – set the amount of misappropriated funds at more than $900,000.
Three additional federal counts of mail fraud and interfering with the administration of IRS laws were dismissed.
Driscoll and Busch endured a highly publicized breakup in 2014, when she accused the former Monster Energy Cup Series champion of domestic abuse. No charges were filed, however, with prosecutors citing a lack of evidence.
In a biography on the Frontline Defense Systems website, Driscoll described herself as spending “the majority of her career in the narcotics and intelligence world.” During her relationship with Busch, Driscoll characterized herself to him and others as “a paid assassin,” displaying photos of deceased terrorists and claiming responsibility for their deaths. Busch had claimed she once returned from a clandestine nighttime outing wearing a trench coat over a blood-stained evening gown.
In an attempt to land a television reality show based on her life, Driscoll created and starred in a video called Pocket Commando, which showed her firing a series of high-caliber weapons and saying, "There's a lot of sensitive things that I work on. Most of them, you're never going to see."

At trial, Driscoll’s attorney blamed Busch for her legal problems, saying he had turned the NASCAR community against her. 

Today's wire fraud and first-degree fraud convictions each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, with the minimum sentence for her tax evasion conviction set at five years.

Her attorney says Driscoll will appeal.

Monday, November 19, 2018

COMMENTARY: Logano Deserves Your Respect

Joey Logano won the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series championship last night at Homestead Miami Speedway, and some folks are pretty darned unhappy about it.
A sizable contingent of NASCAR fans seems to view Logano as Public Enemy Number One these days, after he became embroiled in high-profile, on-track skirmishes with Martin Truex, Jr. and Matt Kenseth in the last couple of years. The Connecticut native is an easy target at times; running every lap like it’s the last lap; contesting every position and attacking each pass like it was for the lead. He approaches every race like the Homestead Miami finale, as if the championship were on the line. He is not afraid to apply his front bumper to the task for which it is was intended, and after doing so, offers none of the empty apologies many modern-day fans – and sadly, even competitors – seem to expect.
That earns Logano a load of disrespect from a fan base that somehow continues to lionize the late Dale Earnhardt for a virtually identical on-track approach.
Logano is an old-school racer who boyish looks and ever-present smile belie a ferocious on-track approach that gives no quarter and asks none in return. His allegiance is to his team and his sponsors, not those delicate souls who have lately come to view NASCAR as a new-age “safe place” where no one should ever get their feelings hurt or experience unhappiness or disappointment. His attitude mirrors that of his fellow Nutmeg State product – the late NASCAR Modified star Ted Christopher – who once famously said, “I didn’t come to race track to make friends. I brought my friends with me.”
Last week, Logano was named 2018 Comcast Community Champion of the Year, honoring him for contributing more than $2.7 million to hundreds of children’s-based charitable organizations through his Joey Logano Foundation. All that is largely ignored by the haters, of course, who pray nightly for the kind of bare-knuckled, fender-banging finish Logano provided earlier this year at Martinsville Speedway, then somehow proclaim their hatred for the man who answers those very prayers.
Since the checkered flag flew on the 2018 season last night, social media has been awash in temper tantrums thrown by people unhappy with yesterday’s Homestead Miami Speedway verdict; angry over a win accomplished on the sport’s grandest stage, under an unimaginable degree of Game Seven pressure and claimed – in case you failed to notice -- without putting as much as a single tire mark on any of his fellow competitors.
Logano and his Shell/Pennzoil team pitched the motorsports equivalent of a perfect game last night in South Florida. Their Ford Fusion was pitch-perfect, running among the Top-5 throughout the championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400. Their in-race adjustments were spot-on, in marked contrast to some of their fellow title contenders, who struggled to adapt to a changing race track. Their pit stops were flawless, routinely gaining Logano multiple positions on a night when a single spot ultimately decided the title.
The number-one pastime across NASCAR Nation today seems to be revisionist mathematics; the ill-willed tallying of championship points according to outdated procedures from a bygone era in an attempt to declare Logano “Not My Champion.” It is sadly reminiscent of what similarly disgruntled souls do when they disagree with the results of a presidential election these days; minus the window smashing, primal screams and mass cry-ins.
It is so hypocritical, and makes so little sense. Joey Logano won the 2018 champion by doing what stock car racers are supposed to do; racing hard, coming from behind and refusing to yield in the face of adversity. For that, he deserves your respect, not your disdain.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

COMMENTARY: Latest NASCAR Penalties Highlight Need For Change

NASCAR announced today that three of the top four finishing cars in last Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway had failed post-race technical inspections at the sanctioning body’s Research and Development Center in Concord, NC. 

Winner Kevin Harvick received an L1 penalty – the most severe in the sport -- for illegal modifications to his car’s rear spoiler. Runner-up Ryan Blaney’s machine was found with unapproved door front crush panels and fourth-place finisher Erik Jones’ car had infractions on the body and package tray that allowed air to flow illegally from inside the car. Both are  grounds for L1 penalties.

Harvick lost 40 championship driver and owner points, leaving him just three points above the cutoff line for advancement to next weekend’s season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, Additionally, he will be without the services of crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Smith for the remainder of the season. Blaney and Jones each forfeited 20 points, with their crew chiefs fined $50,000 and their car chiefs suspended from the next two races.

This is not the first time NASCAR has busted race winners or other front runners with illegally modified cars. It happens all too often these days, and every time, the topic of water cooler talk changes instantly from what happened on the race track to what happened at the R&D Center.

There are a number of problems with that scenario and -- fair warning -- you’ve heard them all before.

NASCAR does itself a grave disservice in times like these by refusing to reveal the specifics of the violations. Were they something that was done quickly and clandestinely during a pit stop? Or were they something more nefarious, requiring weeks of planning and preparation at the shop, before somehow avoiding detection during multiple pre- and post-race inspections?

Harvick now in playoff danger
By not providing specifics, NASCAR allows – even encourages – fans to engage in wild speculation, ranging from a simple strip of tape to a complex, mechanical device that alters the angle and effect of the rear spoiler. Nothing good comes from speculation, and a simple explanatory statement from the sanctioning body could eliminate days of needless conjecture, with one stroke of the pen.

NASCAR also suffers from the timing of announcements like today’s. Ours is the only professional sport that throws a flag and walks-off penalty yardage, 72 hours after the game has ended. The fact that Kevin Harvick was the winner on Sunday, still the winner on Monday and STILL the winner on Tuesday… only to forfeit some of the proceeds of that win on Wednesday is patently inexplicable to casual fans. 

The optics are all wrong.

Today’s announcement – and others like it in the past – raise questions about the efficacy of the numerous at-track inspections conducted during race weekend. Granted, NASCAR is the only professional sport that includes a 3,400-pound mechanical device with literally thousands of moving parts. But if we’re missing serious violations like this at the race track – repeatedly -- perhaps it’s time for NASCAR to make fundamental changes to the inspection process, adding a lengthier, more stringent post-race examination for front-running cars.

Unfortunately, the problems do not end once the infraction is found.

NASCAR  is also the only professional sport that allows competitors to keep a significant portion of their ill-gotten gains. Harvick’s Stewart Haas Racing team earned a total of 60 championship points Sunday, with what NASCAR says was a seriously non-compliant race car. They were penalized only 40 of those 60 points, however, walking away with the equivalent of a 17th-place finish and -- more important – allowed to maintain their position just above the playoff cut line. For the record, NASCAR’s Penalty Grid calls for a deduction of between 10 to 40 championship points for an L1 penalty of this type, meaning that the sanctioning body dropped the heaviest hammer currently allowed by law. Based on the number of L1-level violations we’ve seen this season, however, perhaps it’s time for a new law and a heavier hammer.

Based on the current, widespread lack of compliance in the garage, It may be time for NASCAR to sharpen its teeth to a finer point and take a more meaningful – and painful -- bite out of crime.

A word now, if I may, on the view being expressed in some corners that teams should not be penalized for  infractions that evade detection earlier in the weekend. That makes as much sense as saying, “If you make it out the front door of the bank with a bag full of money, the cops should not be allowed to arrest you 20 miles down the road.”

If you catch your teenage daughter climbing out of her bedroom window at 2 AM, the excuse that, “I did it last night and didn’t get caught” is not going to hold much water. Right is right, wrong is wrong and illegal is illegal, no matter when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

The saddest part of today’s announcement is that it once again reinforces NASCAR’s image as the sport where everybody cheats and nobody cares. In the next four hours, we will hear from a plethora of NASCAR fans espousing such tired old lines as “you’re not cheating until you get caught,” and “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.”

I continue to hope for a certain degree of hypocrisy on the topic, hoping that NASCAR fans apply a higher standard of conduct to themselves and their children than they do to their favorite sport.