If the incident involving Kevin Harvick that ended the CampingWorld.com 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway — the elimination race of the Contender Round of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup — didn’t irritate fans enough, NASCAR’s announcement that followed on Tuesday, stating that no penalties would be handed to Harvick for the incident, sure seemed to do it.
In case you missed it, here’s NASCAR’s statement:
“NASCAR has worked to review an extensive amount of material from Sunday’s NASCAR race in Talladega including video, team radio transmissions and downloadable data. Based on that review, the race results are considered official as we prepare for the upcoming 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Eliminator Round starting Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
“Post-race inspection is currently being conducted. The five cars at the NASCAR Research & Development Center for post-race inspection are the No. 22 (winner), No. 88 (runner-up), No. 18 (final car qualifying for the Eliminator Round), No. 31 (first car not qualifying for the Eliminator Round) and the No. 98 (random).
“Additionally, aside from today’s post-race inspection, NASCAR has completed review of any other potential penalties from the track this past weekend, and there will be no further actions.”
Cliff’s Notes version of the above statement: NASCAR’s not going to penalize Harvick, because there’s no proof that shows, beyond a doubt, that he definitely did something wrong.
As far as whether or not Harvick’s contact with Trevor Bayne that set off the “big one” that brought out the yellow flag that ended the race was intentional or not — whether he wanted to end the race to secure his Chase advancement or he was trying to get his slower car out of the way and accidentally hit Byane in the process — I’m not going to make that guess. Face it, when you get right down to it, calm down and face reality, the only person who really, truly knows the intent of the move is Harvick, himself.
Whether intentional or not, to those who are critical of NASCAR’s decision not to penalize him, even if there are officials with the sanctioning body who have gut feelings that the contact was intentional, I have this to say: NASCAR didn’t really have a legitimate choice other than to not penalize.
Everything scene on the video footage and heard on the radio transmission is circumstantial. As a matter-of-fact, some of it may be construed either way to support either side of this arguement.
Some of the irate fans seem to think circumstantial evidence is enough, even going so far as to use a criminal murder trial as an example, saying that someone may be found guilty of murder based on circumstantial evidence. Sure, a case may be built on circumstantial evidence after charges filed, but when it comes to the actual trial, more is needed for a conviction, more as in 100-percent-certain proof.
Of course this is nowhere near as serious as a criminal trial, but that is the example some people are throwing out, here.
That aside, though, without 100 percent proof, not of the circumstantial kind, where would NASCAR be left if a penalty was issued and Harvick appealed. And I’m certain he would appeal. After all, a championship is on the line, here. Without aforementioned proof, the Appeals Panel would, almost certainly, throw out the penalty. That would kind of leave NASCAR with the proverbial egg on face, now, wouldn’t it?
And for those comparing Sunday’s Harvick incident with the Michael Waltrip Racing debacle at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in 2013, crying that NASCAR owes MWR an apology for its penalty since Harvick got off unscathed — there was more concrete evidence against MWR.
I agree, it’s a shame Sunday’s race ended the way it did and mistakes were made, multiple mistakes. But to focus the problem on NASCAR’s decision to not penalize Harvick is anger that is missplaced.
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