Saturday, May 23, 2009

NASCAR: Should we expect that this record penalty against Carl Long will be the normal penalty for everybody?

NASCAR has hands down a record penalty to driver Carl Long, the owner and crew chief of the #46 in the NASCAR Cup Series that in my eyes was warranted, but too extreme.

First let me say that on the other issue in NASCAR right now, I am not going to comment on the Jeremy Mayfield vs. NASCAR issue which will most likely turn into a lawsuit, I don’t comment on lawsuits. Second, as for NASCAR’s substance abuse policy, as a fan of this sport, I believe NASCAR needs to come clean, be straight and crystal clear with everybody on what NASCAR is looking for (banned substance list), the process, everything, transparent if you will.

With that said, so far in 2009, most teams have gotten the message that when it comes to the NASCAR COT racecar, it is a black and white issue, you are either green for good to go or red for infraction, if you found to have a car infraction, you should expect penalties (fines, docked points and/or suspensions) either now or next week.

Over the past couple of years, NASCAR has handed down some heavy penalties to teams for car infractions, some that have included $100,000 fines, docking 100-150 driver and owner points and if several enough will include something like a six-race suspension for the crew chief, car chief, however this past weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, before qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Showdown, the low budget Carl Long #46 team had a blown engine, and when you change engines NASCAR inspects the old engine.

“NASCAR discovered an issue and sent the engine to the Research & Development Center for more tests, which determined the engine exceeded maximum cubic inch displacement specifications.” – AP

As a result of what NASCAR found at the R&D Center. “NASCAR has issued penalties, suspensions and fines to the No. 146 team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as a result of rules infractions committed during last weekend’s event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

The car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-I (any determination by NASCAR Officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-5.4A (engine exceeded the maximum engine size of 358.000 cubic inch displacement) of the 2009 NASCAR rule book.

As a result, crew chief Charles Swing has been fined $200,000, driver Carl Long and owner Danielle Long have been penalized with the loss of 200 driver and 200 owner points, and all three has been suspended from the next 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship events, suspended from NASCAR until Aug. 18 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31.” – NASCAR PR

The first time I read the press release above stating the penalties I don’t know why, but I was shocked, in I couldn’t believe that NASCAR had reached this dangerous level and with a car infraction that was not blatant cheat in my opinion. NASCAR’s slogan should be expect the unexpected, any way what a penalty…

First, the crew chief gets $200,000 fine, the highest has been $100,000 for #99-Edwards and #66, #70-Haas racing crew chiefs. Note: Robby Gordon’s $150,000 fine (after appeal changed it) after Daytona in 2008 isn’t the same, the appeals board penalized Gordon $150,000 fine for wrong Dodge nose, no other penalty.

Second, Driver Carl Long and the owner have been docked 200 driver and owner points, the highest has been #66, #70-Haas racing at 150 driver owner points after Lowe’s Motor Speedway for wing mounting locations. So far both are where NASCAR said they would go, $200,000 double the fine for a crew chief is high, I would have expected $150k and the docking 200 driver and owner points is 50 more points since last year.

However the third part of this penalty is also the biggest part, a 12 race suspension of driver, crew chief and owner, the highest is six-race for only the crew chief and car chief, not driver or owner.

Basically I understand with this NASCAR COT racecar there is a black and white rule, it’s either, green or red, no yellow here and if you are found to have broken the rules, you will be penalized no matter how little the infraction is.

And I understand that NASCAR needed to hand down a penalty here, that’s the way NASCAR has stated it in the past, so a penalty was warranted here (a must if you will), but this penalty is too extreme, since when did NASCAR start suspending drivers and owners for a car infractions?

This is dangerous waters that NASCAR has put themselves into with suspending drivers and owners for car infractions, most of the time, the driver doesn’t even know about it and if it’s a simple mistake like the wrong rear mounts, this going to be huge and NASCAR doesn’t want these results.

So I ask this again, Should we expect that this record penalty against Carl Long will be the normal penalty for everybody? Let me put this into prospective for everyone, even me, first if Chad Knaus (I choose him because he has had penalties in the past) had a car infraction it would be driver Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus, car chief, and the car owner Jeff Gordon being suspended for 12+ races?

Or Tony Eury Jr. (I choose him because he has had penalties in the past) had a car infraction it would be driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., crew chief Tony Eury Jr., the car chief and the owner Rick Hendrick being suspended for 12+ races? Both crew chiefs have been suspended before for another from changing the COT to wrong rear wing mounts.

Wow, I don’t care who you are, that’s huge right there. Bottom line, I believe this penalty was warranted, but is too extreme and I hope that the appeals board (BTW: there’s appeal fee too) lowers this penalty, but make no mistake, there has to be a penalty hand down here, there was a car infraction.

But more so, NASCAR has entered dangerous waters and when that day comes when a top driver and team and owner have an infraction, NASCAR has to stay consistent and suspend the driver, crew chief, car chief, and owner and when that day comes, it’s going to hurt hard.

And, first, it doesn’t matter that this was a All-Star race infraction, an infraction is a infraction and I’m not surprised that docked points and suspended people, but second, drivers and owners shouldn’t be suspended for car infractions.