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NASCAR’s version of Friday the 13th

September 13, 2013

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NASCAR president Mike Helton and Chairman/CEO Brian France address the media (please note 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup banner behind them?!) NASCAR photo

 

Maybe it’s time for NASCAR to drop this silly and arbitrary “Chase for the Sprint Cup” playoff of 10 races; by holding it the sanctioning body unwittingly does manipulate results and causes drivers that could have been close to making the Chase ineligible for a title.

So appropriate that, on Friday the 13th NASCAR added a 13th driver to the [formerly] 12-person Chase field, due to radio chatter and spotter agreements that were seen and heard by NASCAR last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, the final race of the “regular season.” The series is holding a mandatory meeting on Saturday with drivers, owners and crew chiefs “to hopefully address and make more clearly the path going forward as it applies to the rules of racing and the ethical part of it,” said Mike Helton, NASCAR president.

Although already on probation for car abnormalities punished earlier in the year, the Team Penske squad for Joey Logano (No. 22) is now on probation until the close of the calendar year, as is the Front Row Motorsports organization (David Gilliland No. 38). There had been the usual and customary discussions between these two teams about giving Logano the opportunity to move forward – and folks, this goes on everywhere in racing.

Brian France, NASCAR CEO and chairman noted, “We have decided that, due to the totality of the events that were outside of Jeff Gordon’s – his issues – we’re going to add a 13th position to the field and Jeff Gordon will qualify for the championship this year. There were too many things that altered the event and gave an unfair disadvantage to Jeff and his team, who would have qualified. I have the authority to do that.

“It is an unprecedented and extraordinary thing,” France continued, “but it’s also an unprecedented and extraordinary set of circumstances that unfolded in multiple different ways on Saturday night. We believe this was the right outcome to protect the integrity, which is our number one goal of NASCAR.” France said that, following the meeting with the drivers, owners and crew chiefs on Saturday, further information will be tendered.

No doubt the discussions will be on the deals that transpire throughout any given race and no doubt this will be a very long meeting. As Helton pointed out, there have been many times when NASCAR has changed its rules and those adjustments tended to “shift the paradigm” of what occurred on the track. “That’s what happened this week, in part. So whatever our decision is on how (that) changes the playing field for the teams, we’ll have to shift our officiating with it.”

NASCAR is making these changes using modern technology so that, “going forward, we can be more fair and precise and informed about what happens on our racetracks; we’ll use technology in order to regulate the sport; we’ll chase that,” Helton said.

By Anne Proffit

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