Note to NASCAR: when the cops catch a bank robber, they generally don’t let him keep part of the loot.
But that’s how NASCAR deals with cheaters, the Carl Edwards Vegas heist being the latest case in point.
Following Edwards’ win at Las Vegas Speedway a couple of weeks ago, inspectors discovered his car was missing a lid cover from the oil reservoir.
NASCAR said it gave the car an aerodynamic advantage. Edwards was docked 100 championship points, his team was fined $100,000 and his crew chief suspended for six races.
But Edwards was allowed to keep the “victory,” the winnings, most of the championship points and all of the other illicit goodies.
Elliott Sadler was one of the few drivers with the grit to speak out: if the team cheated to win, how could NASCAR let the win stand? That’s a good question. A lot of us have been asking it for years.
It’s not complicated: did Edwards cheat his way to victory or didn’t he?
If he didn’t, why penalize him at all? If he did, why reward him at all?
The team’s only defense was that the infraction was “unintentional.”
If a receiver “unintentionally” steps out of bounds as he catches what would have been the winning pass in the Super Bowl, his team doesn’t get to keep the touchdown.
The Edwards episode is reminiscent of the cheating scandals that swirled around Jimmie Johnson’s team. Crew chief Chad Knaus was repeatedly suspended for rules violations, yet after every incident NASCAR allowed Johnson to race merrily on to victories and championships.
When big, powerful teams like Edwards’ and Johnson’s are caught cheating it’s especially shameful. It’s like the New England Patriots being caught cheating. They already have all the advantages that money can buy, yet they still try to gain an unfair edge over their opponents.
The smog of cheating that hangs over NASCAR grimes the sport. It tarnishes its image and cheapens its credibility.
If NASCAR really wanted to end cheating, it could do it by sundown. Simply notify every team owner that, starting this weekend, any team caught cheating sits out the next race.
Drivers, mechanics and owners like to say they win as a team. If they cheat as a team, they can sit out as a team.
Don’t buy the “grey area” excuses. Engineers who are smart enough to build a high-performance race car are smart enough to build one within the rules.
NASCAR claims it’s complicated, but it’s not. Set clear, precise rules that every competitor can understand. Then if they cheat, throw the bums out.
What’s so complicated about that?