NASCAR should consider penalty change
Matt Kenseth won the New Hampshire 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday. But here’s the hitch in the giddyup — Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota failed post-race inspection. More specifically, the car failed laser inspection.
NASCAR hasn’t announced penalties for Kenseth and company, yet, but penalties are expected to be handed down either Tuesday or Wednesday. Judging by penalty/warning announcements from recent weeks, I’m expecting something Wednesday, but a Tuesday announcement is definitely a possibility.
To those of you new to this NASCAR game, NASCAR is not interested in stripping wins from drivers for violations discovered post-race. The sanctioning body wants fans to know exactly who won the race by the time they leave the track, not find out the driver they watched take the checkered flag and chug his/or favorite beverage in victory lane didn’t really win, a la the first Daytona 500. If you don’t get that reference, I recommend you check out that story. But then again, what happened in Daytona back then wasn’t the result of a failed post-race inspection, it was the result of questions surrounding a photo finish.
Even though the circumstances are different, I have what I think is a pretty darn good reason for bringing up that 1959 Daytona 500. Here’s why:
NASCAR doesn’t have as much of a problem figuring out which driver wins when there is a photo finish. Gone are the days when a photo is seen days later that would show NASCAR, “Hey, maybe we got it wrong.” These days, video is more readily available. There’s electronic scoring. What I’m getting at here is that there are ways to determine close-finish winners in minutes, not days like in the so-called “good ol’ days.”
Just as advancement has enabled NASCAR to determine close finishes, or for that matter, the specific finishing order when a caution comes out for a “big one” on the final lap at Daytona or Talladega, technological advancements also enable fans to get the NASCAR news they thirst for much more quickly.
A driver’s failed post-race inspection and NASCAR — gasp — decided to strip said driver of his win? Fans nowadays find out about it while still sitting in traffic trying to get out of the race track. Granted, the “official” race winner doesn’t have the identity matching that of the driver fans just watch celebrated in victory lane, but still, they still found out who really won on race day. Besides, when fans find out that a winning car failed post-race inspection, don’t they feel kinda cheated that they just witnessed a “cheater” winning? Also, when it comes to fans who were in attendance AND those watching from the couch at home, there’s something that just doesn’t seem right about celebrating a win someone had to cheat to get. When put that way, it just doesn’t seem right, does it?
Maybe NASCAR should look into the practice of maybe stripping wins for failed post-race inspections. I realize we’re talking about top-level, big-time racing, but I’m going to say it anyway — “Local short tracks can do it; why not NASCAR?”
It won’t happen this week, though, trust me. Look for a fine and, possibly, a points deduction. Do fines really deter race teams? I tend not to thank so. After all, I think that’s what originally prompted NASCAR to start taking points. But is a points deduction a deterrent, given Kenseth’s position, relative to the Chase for the Sprint Cup qualifying format? No.
Kenseth has two wins and is high enough in the standings that a reasonable points deduction wouldn’t even come close to dropping him outside the top-30. Heck, even taking a race’s worth of points wouldn’t even take him out, Not that I really would want him completely taken out of Chase consideration, anyway; that’s at least a little too harsh.
Since it’s pretty much a given he’s not going to be stripped of the win, here’s an idea. How about handing down a penalty for the future? Here’s what I mean by that — slap him with a points penalty, but not one for now. Despite giving him the win, don’t award bonus points for the win when the Chase field is set.
Hey, that’s something that’s been done before, so that must be an option. As a matter-of-fact, it was Kenseth who was handed such a penalty before. Coincidence much?