Thursday, August 21, 2008

The height of stupidity

It is one thing to cheat to win a race. Everybody, it seems, cheats in some way, at least tweaking the "gray areas" in the rules. But they are cheating to get an edge on the competition, not to reduce their chances of winning a race. That is, unless they are very prone to making dumb mistakes.

After last week's Nationwide race at Michigan, NASCAR planned on running chassis dyno tests to see how much horsepower was being transferred to the rear wheels of selected cars from the race. . Before they ran the test, the NASCAR technicians inspected the cars and found that the #20 and #18 cars of Joe Gibbs racing had been tampered with. To be specific, a magnet was placed between the accelerator pedal and the firewall on each car, to prevent the throttle from opening all the way, therefore preventing the engine from producing the full amount of horsepower of which it is capable. In effect, the two teams were caught sandbagging.

This raises the question "why?" Sandbagging in any sport works against the competitive spirit of the sport. Throwing a race is a blow to the integrity of the sport. If a race could be thrown in such a way, it raises questions of gambling involvement, for example.

The two teams had nothing to hide. The cars and the engines were built within the specifications NASCAR requires, and there was nothing in the set up of the cars that would cause a penalty. Except for the extra accelerator stop.

Taking a look back, after the Nationwide race at Chicagoland a few weeks ago, NASCAR pulled the motors from nine different cars and engine dyno-ed them. Because the engine from David Reutiman's Toyota produced 2 horsepower more than David Ragan's Ford, NASCAR saw fit to even things down by implementing a new rule that required the teams with engines that had a cylinder gap of 4.08 inches or more to use a spacer with smaller air intake holes. This reduced the Toyota's output by about sixteen horsepower. Toyota's hp production was accomplished within the rules, but NASCAR had to implement a new one in order for the horsepower advantage to transfer to the Jack Roush Nationwide Series cars. It doesn't matter if that is fair or not, rules are rules. Personally, we would have liked to see the other teams step up to the level of Toyota, rather than seeing Toyota have to step down.

Last Saturday, it was fairly obvious that Toyota had found a way to overcome the disadvantage imposed on them by NASCAR, as the JGR cars could nearly keep up with the Fords on the straightaways. Even though the cars had passed pre-race inspection, somebody in the Gibbs organization saw fit to limit the amount of throttle that could be used during the race. Whether it was to avoid further restrictions, allow an excuse to protest Ford's horsepower advantage, or to hide technology from the competition, it was just plain wrong. Nobody will argue that point--it possibly changed the outcome of the race. If Tony Stewart had been able to use the full throttle, he arguably would have won the race.

It was blatantly stupid. The team's Nationwide series engine tuner, both car chiefs and both crew chiefs were suspended indefinitely from NASCAR. Both crew chiefs were fined $50,000 each by NASCAR, the teams each lost 150 owners points, and Joey Logano and Tony Stewart lost 150 championship points. In addition, Joe Gibbs has promised that those who were responsible for the incident would be fined within the organization as well.

It should be noted that neither driver was involved in the incident, if they were, NASCAR would likely have suspended them as well, and there would have been a monetary fine. Joe Gibbs also acknowledged that neither driver knew anything about the incident.

But for David Rogers, Jr, his brilliant career has ended, all because of a moment of extreme stupidity.


TSRFan said...

Where did you get the information that the magnet was in place during the race? Everyone/thing I've read says that it was installed after post race technical but before the cars were taken to the dyno. It wouldn't make any sense to have them in during the race.

RevJim said...

Just using logic, John. The drivers exit the car under the gaze of a NASCAR official, and when the car is being inspected, nobody except NASCAR officials are allowed near the car once the race is finished. Since JGR mechanic Toby Bigelow is the one being held responsible for placing the magnets, he had to have put them in place before the driver exited the car, which would have been either during the race or before the race. I still think they were trying to make it look like Roush has an unfair horsepower advantage, which would explain the sandbagging.

Kitten said...

I agree with that you said about Dave Rogers...after this incident it will be a waste of great talent. Another great post!

RevJim said...

The general consensus is that Bigelow placed the magnets under the throttle pedal after the drivers exited the car. Since the Fords obviously produced more horsepower than the Toyotas, the action seems completely inexcusable. I think this supports my theory that they were sandbagging to try to prove that Roush had an unfair horsepower advantage.