NASCAR, supporters pouring racing fuel on scandal’s fire
I try to leave the racing to folks like Craig Rutherford, our motorsports columnist, who has followed the sport far longer and knows more about it than I ever will.
But the scandal that erupted in a city I once called home, one of only two NASCAR tracks where I’ve attended a race, has me fuming.
Actually, that’s not quite accurate – the scandal isn’t what has me up in arms. It’s the reaction of alleged sports journalists who think this is OK because it’s teamwork. It’s the racers who think envelope pushing of this nature is just part of the sport. It’s NASCAR itself, which has bungled this mess so badly that the sponsors who keep the sport alive are bailing out.
The item that infuriated me the most was a story right here in this sports section – part of last week’s “That’s Racin'” feature page, which appears each Friday in The Sentinel (the page is syndicated, and is not produced by either The Sentinel or our primary national news wire service, The Associated Press).
Dave Kallman, a Milwaukee reporter who apparently forgot to take an ethics class when he was in journalism school, contributed an opinion column to the page that basically says what happened at Richmond International Raceway Sept. 7 was OK. That Michael Waltrip Racing is only under fire because it happened at the end of the season.
This chowderhead actually compared an overt act of cheating to a football player holding, or a basketball player traveling.
Michael Waltrip’s crews and drivers – there appears to be no evidence the car owner knew any of this was going down, although it’s fair to note that Waltrip was involved in his own outcome-manipulation scandal involving illegal fuel in 2007 – cheated. CHEEEE-TED.
They didn’t commit a foul. They didn’t inadvertently violate a rule. They knowingly and intentionally changed the outcome of a sports event to suit their own interests.
This is auto racing’s version of the Black Sox scandal. Of the college basketball point-shaving scandal.
Holding? Please – this is more like the lineman pulling a gun in the middle of a play and shooting the running back to stop his forward progress.
Apparently, Kallman is among those who think NASCAR went too far. Waltrip’s team was fined a record $300,000 and virtually everyone involved put on probation; NASCAR stretched its own rules by adding a Chase spot for Jeff Gordon, the most notable innocent victim of the so-called Singapore Sling move engineered by Clint Bowyer.
Martin Truex, the intended beneficiary (but not necessarily active participant) was booted out of the Chase, NASCAR’s playoff system. But Bowyer was allowed to stay in. And all the other drivers from Waltrip and two other teams involved in some form of cheating still get to race for the rest of the season.
There is no excuse for this. Every member of the Waltrip team should have been sent home for the year – and perhaps the same for Joey Logano and David Gilliland, who were part of a smaller fix in the final laps at Richmond.
NASCAR has worked hard to get past its image as a bunch of good ol’ boys running moonshine and wrecking cars. This is a huge step backward.
A week ago, Pennsylvania State Police reported an alleged criminal act that took place during an East Juniata football game. In discussing that, I made a statement that some took as an accusation that East Juniata and/or Midd-West students were involved.
There was no direct accusation, but I admitted to one reader that the wording could have led someone to believe that was the case. It was not my intent to do so.
As a story in Wednesday’s Sentinel notes, police still consider the matter under active investigation. Midd-West School District, which is the host for the cooperative’s home games, disagrees to some extent – superintendent Dr. Wesley Knapp told The Sentinel that a school district employee, even if inadvertently, had a hand in the damage done to property of the visiting team.
The police have neither charged nor exonerated anyone, and I suspect there will be no closure to this case. That’s too bad – it leaves a dark cloud over students from two schools and a football program that, from all indications, are innocent.
Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.