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Saliva test for cars?
Stock car racing, a fairly new sport but running in high gear financially, with $1,800,000 distributed in prizes last year by the National Association for Stock Car Racing alone, has come up against a problem which annually, continually and recurrently confronts horse racing.
The problem is cheating. The presumption on which horse racing is based is that the thoroughbreds are running without the aid of artificial stimulation. To guard against dope the race tracks have instituted a system of saliva testing which has at least the advantage of being simple, though its effectiveness is questioned.
But there is no simple test for the doctored car. The presumption on which stock car racing is based is that the cars are pretty much what any motorist would drive away from his dealer's, equipped with only such parts as are listed in the manufacturer's catalog and without benefit of hopped-up engine, racing-rigged suspension or bastard gear-axle ratios. In some respects, even the most minute modifications are forbidden. An entrant has been disqualified merely because he had soldered four grub screws holding the butterfly valve on his carburetor as a precaution against their shaking loose.
It is not easy to detect such violations. Without a simple test NASCAR has done the next best thing. It has adopted a complicated and time-consuming test, one which may postpone knowledge of who won for a full day. After the 160-mile Grand National at Daytona Beach the first five cars were stripped down, nut by nut and bolt by bolt. And, as in the year before, the supposed winner, Glenn (Fireball) Roberts, was disqualified because his 1955 Buick Century had been tampered with (SI, March 7). The winner was declared to be Tim Flock, driving a Chrysler 300—which recalled that in 1954's race Tim Flock had won and then been disqualified for a mechanical violation.
Precautions against cheating are a commonplace necessity in many sports. Boxers' gloves and hand-taping are examined before a match. The loaded bat has turned up from time to time in baseball. And, oddly enough, when sly advantage is taken in these sports no one becomes too indignant. No one has become much exercised about stock car tampering, either.
In the days when tennis was despised as a sissy game because players wore white flannels and unblushingly used the word "love," there was a pleasant little convention seldom seen nowadays. A player who thought the umpire had made a mistake in his favor would throw away the next point. The idea was that a sportsman would not take unfair advantage of an opponent, even legally. The idea must still be lying around somewhere.
Latest governor to decide that boxing could do with a close shave and a hot shower is Goodwin J. Knight of California. Close on similar decisions by the governors of New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, Knight announced he was investigating attempts to intimidate his boxing commission chairman, Anthony P. Entenza.
A succession of visitors to Entenza's hospital bedside, where he was seriously ill of anemia, cost the commission chairman four pounds in weight. Objective: to persuade him to let the Chamrern Songkitrat-Raton Macias bout go on as a 15-rounder for the bantamweight championship of the world, as billed by the International Boxing Club ( James D. Norris, President). Result: Entenza left his sickbed just long enough to cast a deciding vote against the billing and reduce the fight to a 12-round, nonchampionship size.