|NASCAR champion Richard Petty at Pocono in 1985. Photo taken by Ted Van Pelt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The other problem I've noticed, and this is the root of the downhill slide, is that the sport's no longer about the love of racing, competition, and trying to be the best. It's about money, greed, marketing, and PR. The problems in NASCAR, and the causes of them, are mirror images of the problems within American society today.
NASCAR slipped to a new low over the weekend at Richmond. Drivers took "dives" in order to influence the outcome of the race, the last one before The Chase begins. They did so in order to influence who made The Chase. The drivers that took "dives" were all members of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR). Want to guess whose drivers were initially help by those dives? Yep. MWR drivers. That is, until NASCAR slapped their hand. My question is who does MWR think it is? Why do they think they get to determine who makes The Chase and who doesn't?
|Clint Bowyer (Photo credit: AmyKay1974)|
I have been a critic of The Chase ever since it began in 2004. I do not like it for one main reason - it makes it impossible to compare drivers of today to drivers of yesterday, because it allows for "mulligans." If a driver is in the top-10 in points after 26 races, they make The Chase for the Championship. The points are then re-set shrinking the point lead the point leader has on all the other drivers to nothing. Basically, it erases each drivers' bad races during the first 26 races of the season. Earnhardt and Petty didn't get to do that. If they were several hundred points behind the leader after 26 races, they were just screwed unless the leader hit a bad slump. If Jimmie Johnson or some other driver tie or pass Petty and Earnhardt's record 7 championships in the future, there is no way to logically make the case they are better than those 2 guys.
|NASCAR driver Martin Truex, Jr. in August 2007 at Bristol Motor Speedway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
NASCAR, specifically Mike Helton and The Frances, created this mess by :
- changing the points system and putting all the emphasis on making "The Chase," and
- by allowing drivers and teams to break the rules time after time with little to no penalty.
Yes, MWR crew members have been put on probation, drivers were docked points, and MWR was fined $300,000 in "penalties" for this incident. It's pocket change. NASCAR teams bring in millions of dollars in revenue per year due to their sponsorship agreements. A $300,000 fine to them is like telling a working man he has to forfeit one lunchtime Whopper this week. Furthermore, this slap on the wrist reminds me of the University of Tennessee football team suspending players who get in legal trouble for a quarter or half of one football game. What a joke. It does nothing to fix the problem or punish people for bad behavior. Bowyer should have been booted from The Chase, suspended, and ALL MWR cars parked for the remainder of the year.
|NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt in his car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I will always have fond memories of watching and cheering for The Intimidator. That will never change. He inspired me, and I learned a lot from watching him.
But .... those were the good ol' days.
Right now I'm wondering, "Can NASCAR sink any lower?" Yes. Yes, it can. Clint Bowyer could win The Sprint Cup Championship after all of this.