Thursday, June 4, 2009

Carl Long's Treatment by NASCAR is Embarrassing to the Sport

It is absolutely astounding and embarrassing that NASCAR has fined and suspended independent car owner and driver, Carl Long, 12 races, $200,000 and 200 points. And, Long's appeal was denied--of course--by NASCAR's so-called 'Appeals Board' which is known to be a joke in the world of sports. If it wasn't a joke before--it certainly is now!

What is particularly astounding is that the penalty was assessed to Long for a car being entered in the NASCAR All-Star Race. It wasn't even a sanctioned points event!!! Does anyone else remember in the late 1990's when there was a wreck in the opening lap of this same event and, because Jeff Gordon's car was involved, Gordon was allowed to get his backup car off the trailer and run it in the All-Star race? That was the first time anyone was ever allowed to run an uninspected backup car in a race--and, even more amazing at the time, was the fact that the race was getting underway when this happened. But, that was a Hendrick car and it was 'only' an All-Star race.

For Carl Long to be penalized with the largest fine and points penalty in the history of NASCAR is abominable, blatantly unfair and totally egregious. Carl Long is known to be a dedicated racer who does not play the cheating games played by the major NASCAR team, particularly the Hendrick stable whose own Chad Knaus has been found guilty of cheating seven times--that we know of. With their multi-millions, despite the sinking economy, Hendrick could well afford to pay a $200,000 fine. Both Carl Long and his crew chief, Charles Swing, were EACH penalized $200,000--an act which could certainly bankrupt both men and send their personal finances into ruin. And, for what exactly? NASCAR once again fails miserably to see the big picture. First, this was an All-Star race. Gee whiz. Wow, what egregious cheating!!! More important, though, is the fact that the infraction was because the engine was found to be 358.17 cubic inches, 0.17 more than the legal limit. My God, what horsepower that would have produced!!!! A number so miniscule that only the most diligent could have likely found that numeral. A top engine builder could not possibly attempt to produce an engine with a .17 'advantage.'

When Jimme Johnson's car for the 2006 Daytona 500 was found to be illegal, Johnson and Knaus were fined and penalized--yet still allowed to run the illegal car in the Daytona 500, which Johnson 'won' that year. They were actually allowed to run the same car that was found to not fit the templates and specifications in the biggest race of the year! But, of course, that was Jimmie Johnson, not Carl Long. In Long's case, NASCAR argues that Rules are Rules. Guess it depends on who is breaking the rules.

Righfully, Carl Long is frustrated. In a statement issued, he said,
'Big Bill [France, NASCAR founder] and Bill Jr. ruled the sport like a father -- at the end of the day they took care of their family' Long said. 'These guys don't care. They don't have any heart. Basically, it seems like they don't care about the sport, they just want to make a dollar. I truly have a sour taste of the management in our sport. They've forgotten the roots of how this sport was created, and who are the people buying the tickets, sitting in the stands. The people in the stands are me. I am very disappointed in NASCAR's decision. I am not arguing that the size NASCAR measured is big. Ernie Elliott says this happened because of distortion from heat. Allow me the .17 for expansion or show me metallurgy that states how much a block can change at extreme temperatures. Then take this hole in the rules and make engine companies sign the inspection sheet and take responsibility. Fix the rule! Engine builders can argue with NASCAR and their engineers instead of leaving drivers, owners, and crew chiefs to explain properties of cast iron, nickel, and the growth due to heat. We have the option to appeal to the national board in Daytona. I am trying to overcome my emotions versus the facts. After today's hearing, I have lost all faith in the way the appeal system works.'

So have we, Carl. So have we. Once again, NASCAR has pounded on the little guy still trying to make it in the sport while the multi-million dollar teams appear to get away with virtually anything they please. NASCAR is clearly only interested in catering to their Big Three--but in this case, that Big Three is Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. Incidentally, whether it's admitted or not, Stewart-Haas and Junior Motorsports are no more than satellite or R&D teams for Hendrick's operation--which is another way of skirting around the 4 team limit for one owner. How does an independent owner racer stand a chance these days?

If the owners and drivers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series really care about the state of the sport, they would put together a fund to pay the total of $400,000 in penalties assessed to Carl Long and Charlie Swing. Even better, NASCAR should for once remove its collective head from its butt and rescind (or at least significantly reduce) the fine imposed. The amounts fined are simply astounding--and apparently intended to drive this struggling owner out of the sport. That would be the decent thing for NASCAR to do -- since NASCAR's governing board (Brian France and company) obviously does not care a whit how fans view their actions or that NASCAR is bankrupting one of the truly nice guys in the sport whose integrity, loyalty and love of racing has never been questioned.

PS -- Fans are already donating whatever they can to help out Carl Long. Sprint Cup driver and recent first time winner David Reutimann has already given $5,000 to get the ball rolling! For more information, visit Carl's website,