Gibbs suffers at the hands of NASCAR's short-sightedness
SI.com's Mark Beech offers the most intriguing news, notes and analysis fans need to know heading into each week's race.
The rulemakers around NASCAR corporate offices in Charlotte must be especially proud this week. For this week, the organization that likes to tout itself as the sanctioning body for one of the premier sports in America has done something truly bush league, something that was heretofore unthinkable. NASCAR has made a cheater out of Joe Gibbs.
Joe. Gibbs. The nice man whose Christian faith is so strong that it permitted no stronger epithet than "dadgum" during a 16-year NFL coaching career. The nice man who, through his tireless work ethic, was the single most important reason that the Redskins won three Super Bowls in 10 years. Somehow NASCAR has managed to find Joe Gibbs guilty of choosing the easier wrong over the harder right. This, friends, is the definition of a sad day.
And it's all the result of an asinine decision that took asinine decision-making to new heights of asininity. About a month ago, in response to complaints from some Nationwide Series teams about the dominance of Toyota on the circuit -- at one point, Toyotas had won 14 of 21 races -- NASCAR modified a rule governing engine specs that required teams competing with the Japanese-manufactured cars to cut about 15 horsepower out of their engines. In one stroke, NASCAR transformed legal engines into illegal ones, all the while claiming that the move was made in the interest of eliminating Toyota's unfair advantage. The mental gymnastics it takes to justify such a move are so mind-boggling that they deserve their own column. And indeed, last month I wrote about it here ... lover of mental gymnastics that I am.
The biggest loser in all this was Joe Gibbs Racing, which at the time the rule was made, had won 13 of 21 Nationwide races. And so it should hardly come as a surprise that yesterday NASCAR suspended seven JGR crewmembers indefinitely after it caught them attempting to manipulate a horsepower test last week at Michigan. Specifically, members of the crews for the 18 and 20 cars had fixed magnets underneath the accelerators in an effort to mask the true capabilities of the vehicles' engines.
JGR has been publicly contrite, announcing that it is investigating the incident and that it may impose additional penalties. But tellingly, team president J.D. Gibbs has said that nobody would be terminated. Seems like NASCAR is the only one taking this cheating thing seriously.
But what could the organization have possibly expected? I just can't get past the feeling that the time to change rules about what goes under the hood -- unless safety is an issue -- is in the offseason. NASCAR teams don't just consist of an owner, a driver and a crew chief. There are hundreds of people who make their living at JGR, and winning races is a major part of their life-making -- from the engineers in white lab coats to the receptionists at the front desk to the guys who sweep up in the shop at the end of the day. You don't just change the rules on people in the middle of the game.
Not unless you're unbelievably short-sighted.
How to drive
Bristol Motor Speedway
Elliott Sadler explains why he loves the World's Fastest Half-Mile: "People ask me all the time which racetrack is my favorite and before they can even get the question out I tell them it's Bristol. Bristol is racing heaven. A super fast short track with unbelievable banking and it's only gotten better since they repaved it. Now you can race high and low and it opens up the track for more passing and better racing. The two races at Bristol are by far my favorite of the year. Daytona is Daytona and Indy is Indy -- they are historic, pressure-packed and prestigious, but Bristol is just awesome. Bristol is fun, fast paced, challenging, edge-of-your-seat racing -- everything I love about racing."
82: Series points that separate Jeff Gordon (9th place) and David Ragan (14th place) in the driver standings
222: Series points that separate leader Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards (2nd place)
July 25, 1965: Eventual Cup champion Ned Jarrett leads 141 laps at Bristol en route to a victory in the Volunteer 500. It is the eighth of his 13 wins that season.