There’s a saying in sports that has spilled over to mainstream slang that goes something like, “Don’t hate the player; hate the game.” I think that mantra can very well be applied to the Cole Pearn situation over at Furniture Row Racing.
Cole Pearn is serving his one-race suspension during Sunday’s Good Sam 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. It’s a suspension that came out of the race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway because of a roof-flap issue. Said suspension was delayed a week by the race team filing an appeal of the penalty. As a result, Pearn was able to sit atop Martin Truex Jr.’s pit stop last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But just a couple of days after the LVMS race, what do you know? Furniture Row Racing withdrew its appeal, sidelining Pearn for the race at Phoenix.
Upon the announcement the race team was withdrawing its appeal, team General Manager Joe Garone claimed the appeal was being withdrawn because, after an explanation from NASCAR, he was satisfied with the penalty. Really?!? I’m no mind reader by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a pretty good feeling good ol’ Garone understood the penalty right after it originally was handed down.
I’m thinking the appeal was a strategical move to have Pearn atop the pit box at Las Vegas. I’m thinking maybe the powers that be at FRR decided Pearn’s services were needed more at Las Vegas than at Phoenix.
That leads me to my other issue with NASCAR’s penalty/appeal process. Pearn may not be physically in the garage and the pits at Phoenix, but that doesn’t mean he’s not involved in this weekend’s efforts by his race team. Team members, including Truex. With today’s technology, crew chiefs may still take an active role on race weekends, even without being at the track.
Of course Furniture Row Racing isn’t the only team that takes advantage of today’s technology to keep suspended crew chiefs in the game. Heck, they all do it. Well, at least teams that have had crew chiefs suspended in recent years do it.
This rant isn’t meant to criticize Furniture Row Racings and its actions of late. Actually, I applaud this race team for playing the game to perfection, just as teams before it have. What I’m critical of is “the game.” I really am, at least to myself, chanting that mantra, “Don’t hate the player; hate the game.”
This is a game that needs to be changed. I’m not sure how, though. A quicker appeals process would, maybe, keep teams from playing the “serving suspension when we want to” game. It would help matters if an appeal could be heard before the next race weekend after a penalty is issued. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but if it is, that would definitely help.
Now, as far as keeping a crew chief from being in contact with his race team while suspended? Well, that’s a different matter. I’m not sure how that could be done without locking the crew chief up in a little room during the race weekend with NASCAR officials keeping an eye on him 24/7, making sure he had not contact with anyone. Yes, I said anyone, not just anyone on the race team. Why? Because some kind of covert go-between could be utilized. Believe me; if there’s a way around these penalties, a race team will find it. Just give them a little time.
So maybe there’s no reasonable solution to keeping race teams an crew chiefs apart during a suspension. I guess that’s just a part of “the game” I’ll have to continue to hate. I guess I’ll just have to accept it and move on. Still, I don’t have to like it. I guess it should make me feel a little better that, even though chiefs are still in contact, not being at the track must cause some kind of hinderance. After all, if it didn’t, why bother playing the game to defer the penalty a week to have Pearn at Vegas?
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