Just when you thought NASCAR was getting a little credibility back, here comes Rick Hendrick once again. You remember Hendrick, the car-dealer/convicted felon who got his "Presidential Pardon" after a half-a-million dollar donation to the Clinton Library was made, after being indicted on 17 counts (he pled guilty to 1 count) of bribery in a $250 MILLION dollar case prosecuted by the federal government...who skirted prison by a very rare cancer diagnosis (which has been in remission for several years now), and who, most recently, refused to accept NASCAR's penalties assessed on his beloved #48 team after it was found to have an illegal C post on a car brought to Daytona in February.
The same car which was run 4 times last year.
The same car that Jimmie Johnson was told by his crew chief, Chad Knaus, that if he won at Talladega, he had better wreck the back end of the car (so as to keep post-race inspection from finding illegalities).
Hendrick appealed the penalties assessed (suspensions for crew chief and team manager and points deducted for car owner and driver, and fines) and his appeal was denied. So, of course Hendrick proceeded to appeal the case again. Only this time, the guy hearing the case just HAPPENS to be a very long time Chevrolet executive who is also an old friend (crony?) of Hendrick's.
It was announced today that the "Chief Appellate" for NASCAR, John Middlebrook, removed all penalties except the $100,000 fine assessed to Hendrick Racing. In case you don't know, that's chump change to these racing multimillionaires. Hendrick blows that much money on a single Corvette at Barrett-Jackson auctions (where he's been seen to purchase 10-20 Corvettes at a time for his collection or for 'gifts'). Oh, and by the way, guess who was one of the speakers at Middlebrook's retirement shindig from GM? You got it -- Rick Hendrick.
You would have thought for the appearance of impartiality and fairness that Middlebrook would recuse himself from the case. After all, it has been widely reported in the media that Hendrick and he have a long-standing relationship and friendship. Instead, all of the severe penalties that really mean anything against Hendrick's team were dropped. The biggest win for Hendrick was the removal of the 6-race suspension initially given to Crew Chief Chad Knause. Knause has been convicted of cheating at least 7 times that we know of.
So much for having rules and enforcement. When you have a few hundred million dollars invested in a sport though, it looks like that this takes precedence over right and wrong. When Clint Bowyer's car was found to be illegal at New Hampshire 2 years ago in post-race inspection by a miniscule, unmeasurable fraction of an inch, poor Clint was docked 100 points and effectively removed from the Chase for the Cup. A Chase that Hendrick's #48 team went on to "win." Guess it's all about "who" you are in the sport.
Hendrick has a stellar history of bribery and cheating. A public, convicted history. Wouldn't you think NASCAR would have just a wee bit of concern at how this all appears to the ticket-buying, race watching public? It looks more and more like young Brian France and his family are no longer running the sport, especially with the iron fist that his father, Bill France, used.
This type of travesty is not going to put any more folks in the stands at the races, you can count on that. Just like you could virtually count the empty seats at the Cup race this past weekend at Bristol. And I never thought I'd see the stands at that race so empty! NASCAR might love having a multimillionaire like Hendrick run the show--but the fans, well, not so much.