When it comes to NASCAR, it seems that the more things change the more they remain the same.
Case in point. Less than a month after Spingate, when NASCAR announced with great fanfare that it would no longer tolerate cheating, it has allowed a race to be won by a cheater.
Joey Logano finished first in the Nationwide Series race at Dover last Saturday and immediately afterward his car failed post-race tech inspection because the front end was too low.
NASCAR will undoubtedly announce Tuesday that Penske Racing, Logano’s employer, is being penalized for the infraction but that’s not good enough anymore.
If NASCAR meant what it said in the week following the race-fixing controversy at Richmond, it has no choice but to disqualify Logano and award the win to Kyle Larson, who finished second on the speedway in a car that was legal.
There will be some who will say that NASCAR did not specifically outlaw cheating as a result of finding Michael Waltrip Racing guilty of manipulating the outcome of that race at Richmond that initially saw driver Martin Truex Jr. qualify for the Chase of the Championship.
But in all the dancing around the controversy that Mike Helton and Brian France did in the week following Richmond, the implication of everything they said was very clear: NASCAR would no longer tolerate cheating.
We all know the “tradition” from whence this turning-a-blind-eye-to-shenanigans came from: Big Bill France, right from the start of NASCAR, did not want fans who paid to watch a race in person on Sunday see somebody win and then read in the newspaper the next day that somebody else was the winner.
But what was fine in the 1950s is no longer fine in 2013.
NASCAR is supposed to be a big-league sport, in line with pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey where instant replay and stick and goalie-pad measurements have ensured that the equipment is legal and the rulings on the field of play are correct. All those other major-league enterprises would not stand for a millisecond some of the nonsense that has gone on in NASCAR over the years.
My personal favourite? Richard Petty won his 200th Winston Cup race with an illegal engine, as some say.
Again, that was then (who’s gonna disqualify the King over something as minor as having a bigger engine than everybody else) and this is now and what was acceptable then is simply no longer acceptable.
And, please, none of this “the driver didn’t make the mistake, somebody else did so the driver shouldn’t suffer.” The driver is part of the team, just as the hockey player who gets the penalty is part of the team and the whole team suffers when that happens.
NASCAR can’t have it both ways: it can’t throw the book at Michael Waltrip Racing for cheating and then turn a blind eye three weeks later to something equally as blatant.
NASCAR might not realize it but its credibility is on the line here.
Disqualify Joey Logano or else nobody will ever again believe another word that NASCAR says.