Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NASCAR and the appeals board gets it wrong with the Carl Long penalty.

NASCAR backs themselves into a corner that could result in a huge blow to the sport, if any team is found illegal (where talking car infraction), the driver, crew chief and the owner could be suspended for at least 12-races.

Two weeks ago, NASCAR handed 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. The penalty included the crew chief being fined $200,000, docking driver Carl Long 200 driver points, docking the owner 200 owner points and the biggest and most ridiculous is the 12-race suspension of driver, crew chief and owner, keep in mind, the highest previously was six-race for only the crew chief and car chief, not driver or owner.

This is the heaviest penalty (to my knowledge) NASCAR has handed down and in doing so they had backed themselves into a corner that isn’t good for the sport. After reading the penalty, I wrote an article is titled “NASCAR: Should we expect that this record penalty against Carl Long will be the normal penalty for everybody?” and for good reason, as I stated in the article, this is dangerous.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was expecting the appeals board to overturn some of the penalty, yes Carl Long does deserve a penalty no doubt, however not this extreme, but for the most part, that didn’t happen.

You can read the entire statement from the appeals board on NASCAR.com.

(From the statement)…Upon reviewing all the testimony, the National Stock Car Racing Commission has decided to amend the penalties as follows:

* In each of the three Penalty Notices, the statement that reads “Suspended from NASCAR until August 18, 2009” shall be rescinded.
* All other elements of the penalties (points, suspensions from next 12 NSCS events, fine and probations) remain in force.
* The periods of suspension shall be adjusted from the date of this hearing.
In handing down this penalty and having it for the most upheld by the appeals board, NASCAR has backed themselves into a huge corner or trending in deep water, this is a dangerous move for the sport.

First I feel bad for Carl Long, with this penalty I believe he will be unable to pay it and in turn will not be able to enjoy his passion of racing at least in the Cup Series level.

Second, the penalty was warranted, but was extreme. You can argue it until you are blue in the face (no fun intended), but ultimately you as the owner are responsible for all aspects of your COT racecar including the size of the engine. I would have thought that the penalty would have been something along the lines of crew chief is fined $150,000, docked 150 driver and owner points and 4-race suspension for crew chief.

Third, as a NASCAR fan, I understand that NASCAR wants to send a message to drivers, crew chiefs, teams and owners that if you mess with this COT racecar in the Cup Series, you are going to be penalized and like I said I get it, however now NASCAR is penalizing and in this case (should be in the future too) suspending not only the crew chief and other person, but they are suspending the driver and owner too for a car infraction.

I can’t believe that NASCAR is now suspending the driver and owners too, when it comes to the driver, 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 since this has been done and from here, I would think it could get worse, what could the results be if another team has a COT infraction? Well, even Carl Long said it on the Tuesday edition of NASCAR Now and I said it on RaceDriven.com, I will use Hendrick Motorsports as an example:

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. Can NASCAR and its fans imagine no 3-time champion Jimmie Johnson and no 4-time champion Jeff Gordon being suspended for 12-races, not being in 12-races, what a hit.

I will give you one more, what if the new intern crew chief Lance McGrew had a car infraction it would be driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., crew chief Lance McGrew, the car chief and the owner Rick Hendrick being suspended for 12+ races. What a hit is right.

Finally, I have to wonder, we already know that an over spec engine (bigger engine size) will yield this penalty, however what other infractions will get NASCAR to hand down a penalty like this in the future?

As a NASCAR fan, I’m not sure I want to find out because if another team does have a sever car infraction, NASCAR will hand down this penalty again and I would hate to see this happen. What about TV ratings and attendance if this happens? I hate to ask, but what’s next?