If Nascar has zero tolerance for teams manipulating a race, shouldn't we expect the same out of Nascar? Probably not. And if they need positive proof of manipulation, we may never again see them come down with the hammer ( or was it a mallet ? ).
All sports organizations manipulate to keep the dollars rolling in. Sometimes it's by changing/adding rules, increasing the number of playoff contenders, reluctantly implementing safety features, lowering/raising the mound, changing the point system, ad infinitum. We've seen, over the years, hundreds of cautions thrown for no apparent reason. And some not thrown when they seemed needed. If you've read any historical accounts of Nascar, there's no question about manipulation in the earlier days. Do the words 'Wendell Scott' ring a bell? That Jacksonville example may have been about race in the short term, but it was about money in the long term.
If a teammate doesn't give 100% to pass you, is that manipulation? Sunday, I never heard any chatter about the 48 keeping the 20 in front him, but early on I thought that would be a good strategy. That way the 20 would be much less likely to gain any advantage by pitting out of sequence and possibly picking up a dozen or two spots with some luck. Would that be manipulation? After all, doesn't 100% mean trying to pass the car in front of you? No. That's just strategy and that's why Nascar has a nearly impossible task of enforcing a nebulous rule. As ephemeral as the Nascar rule book seems, I think I prefer it to the specific and ever increasing number of minutial ( I don't think that's a word. It is now for the purpose of this post ) rules in the so-called 'major' sports.
In the Nationwide race on Saturday, I wonder how much Nascar's concern about appearing to be manipulative affected their decision to red flag or not red flag the race. I try to always give them the benefit of the doubt - I believe they try to do the right thing - but Robin Pemberton's explanation left me with doubt: (the quote according to That's Racin's Jim Utter) 'It really looked like it was going to be a typical clean-up, a typical wreck. You know, you had two cars that had a lot of damage and both of them dumped quite a bit of oil. There was no need to throw a red. We felt like we could get it in normal lap segment of that. You know, unfortunately there was a lot of oil - it looked like it kept either seeping back up out of the race track or whatever from the car that was on the outside of the wall. And you know, we went one to go a handful of times trying to get back racing as soon as we can, but you know, when you're in situations like that the most important thing is getting the track race ready. You know, you can look at you can use your hindsight every chance that you want to, but in this particular time we did the best we could to do and it was more important to get the track ready.'
Shades of Donald Rumsfeld. Actually I understood his famous 'known unknown' speech much better than this one by Mr. Pemberton.
It's all about the 'show' and ratings. That's not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your perspective. Personally, I would have no problem with Nascar still being a regional sport. But my income isn't greatly impacted by the amount of money Nascar generates. ( But my outgo has been. )
By Gary Erdakos
Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views of racing-reference.info.