Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | 5:14 p.m.
We’ve all become cynics. Maybe that’s our own fault, but maybe it’s also a symptom of the culture we live in. We’re distrustful of institutions and people in power. Government’s inability to function, political scandals, self-serving politicians and the economic destroyers on Wall Street have all contributed to our collective distrust of people in positions of power and authority.
So it’s not surprising that this attitude would carry over to the way we sometimes view NASCAR.
I’m specifically thinking of the decision by NASCAR Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook to overturn the suspension and point deductions levied by NASCAR against the No. 48 team. Once the Middlebrook ruling was announced speculation that the fix was in immediately began to fly like car parts in The Big One at Talladega.
One friend speculated that since Middlebrook had worked for GM he was obviously looking out for a Chevy team when he ruled on the penalties. Another friend was convinced that a friendship between Rick Hendrick and Middlebrook had influenced the decision.
But there’s no real evidence to support accusations of favoritism. And, unfortunately for NASCAR, it can’t win. Middlebrook’s decision makes the sanctioning body’s original penalties seem heavy-handed. But if Middlebrook’s decision had gone the other way, people would be spectulating that NASCAR unfairly controlled the review process.
I’d like to see NASCAR display the illegal pieces next to legal parts so the public can see the differences. NASCAR might believe this would give other teams the information they need to cheat, but the cat is already out of the bag. Any team that’s willing to take the risk might try to experiment with C-posts to gain the advantage the No. 48 team was looking for.
And what about Chad Knaus’ claim that he had used the part before and no one had claimed it to be illegal? Isn’t that like being caught robbing a bank but claiming that the five previous robberies you committed were legitimate because you didn’t get caught?
Regardless of what you think of Middlebrook and his background and affiliations, one thing is certain. The sport has a limited talent pool from which it can draw to make these decisions. Making a judgment on a race car needs to be made by a person with knowledge of race cars, automobiles and the sport of racing. NASCAR can’t grab a valet parker from Caesars Palace and throw that person into the position of ruling on the legality of a race car. That decision has to come from a person with real experience in the automotive industry. And no matter who that person is they will have many friendships and affiliations in the world of cars and racing.
Every year the NASCAR Foundation awards a deserving NASCAR fan with the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The award is given to a fan who demonstrates an intense commitment to children’s causes.
If you know a NASCAR fan who fits this criteria, you can submit a nomination at NASCAR.com/foundation. All nominations must be submitted by May 31, 2012.
This year’s winner will receive trips to a Sprint Cup race and entry into the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas in December. The winner will also be awarded $100,000 from the NASCAR Foundation to be given to the children’s charity of their choice.
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