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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Perception is a funny thing

Yesterday, Nascar announced the penalties for the #7 team and driver/owner Robbie Gordon for attempting to pass through pre-qualifying inspection a non-approved nose. It didn’t take long for the ‘NA$CAR flaming’ all over the innerweb defending the #7 team and the cries of the ‘NA$CAR agenda’. This is where perception comes into play, and how that perception creates memory loss to many of the Nascar faithful.

First lets hear from the team owner himself:

“This was an innocent mistake made by someone not even on my team. They accidentally supplied us the new Dodge noses that NASCAR hasn't yet approved because of what amounted to a clerical error. It was discovered during technical inspection and corrected before the race. It was not even close to being an intent to create some competitive advantage, and the mistake was not even made by my team.”

Now I understand why Robbie would want to point fingers and deflect the blame to someone else. (In this case GEM supplied the nose) But this is not the first time a team has been penalized for having ‘unapproved’ parts supplied by another team. Hall of Fame Racing was fine and had points taken away in their VERY FIRST RACE two years ago thanks to Joe Gibbs Racing. At least that was where the blame went. There is your precedent Robbie and you stance takes another blow when one looks at the penalty for the 8 team last season for using 'unapproved rear wing brackets' on the C.O.T. and they attempted the same 'it was just a mistake' justification.

The first volleys thrown were the ‘comparisons to any Rick Hendrick team violation’, whether it was from the C.O.T. or not. So that got me thinking, just how a team that fields FOUR full time teams can be compared to a single car team in terms of ‘frequency of violations’. These fans might be surprised just how many times over the past few years the #7 team/driver/owner has been caught ‘cheating’, yet somehow is ‘innocent’.

Just a quick scan of Jayski’s penalty pages shows that the one car team seems to appear almost as much as the four car Hendrick Motorsports teams.

2005 Daytona: “unapproved intake manifold on the #7 Chevrolet discovered during the initial Daytona 500 inspection”, $50,000 fine and 25 owner points (car failed to make the field so no driver points were deducted)

2005 spring Martinsville: “unapproved deck lid”, $5,000 fine, no points deducted

2006 fall Atlanta: “intentionally causing a caution condition during the race”, $15,000 50 driver and 50 owner points

2007 Summer Daytona: “equipment used do not conform to NASCAR rules”, $25,000 fine, 25 driver and 25 owner points.

I will omit the handful of penalties access by Nascar to Gordon for altercations or language.

No I am not going to sit here and say that HMS is an ‘angel’ when it comes to rules violations but I will say that ‘perspective’ and bias comes into play if one wants to defend the #7 team. As a single car team they have proportionately been guilty of just as many and just as severe violations. Maybe more importantly comes from the ‘innocent’ justifications Robbie gives in many of these violations with ‘we are not doing anything different that anyone is doing’ or the ‘the issue was found before qualifying so way the severe penalty’?

Nascar has to take and stance (and has) that simply submitting a car for pre-race inspection show intent to run that car’s configuration during qualifying and during the race. If not, then why was the car submitted to the inspection line in the first place. Bottom line, once the car enters the pre-qualifying inspection line, the ‘official entry’ for that team has been made.

Robbie can shift the blame to Evernham all he wants, and there are enough Evernham violations to go around over the past few years to fill the bucket, or he can say it was just a ‘clerical’ mistake all he wants, but that doesn’t change the fact of what his team attempted to do. Nascar has taken a firm stance one ‘messing with the aero of the C.O.T.' and the fines/penalties ($100,000 fine, 100 driver and 100 owner points) issued for this was in all honesty the ‘minimum’ in terms of precedent. Robbie feels differently with this quote: "Other teams who have had similar issues to what happened with the nose on my car were only penalized 25 points." I challenge Robbie to site just one 'similar' C.O.T. violation where only 25 points were deducted. In fact, I would go further to say that he could look for ANY C.O.T. violation. Fact is, he can't.

If Nascar was to turn the other cheek on this, doesn’t that open Pandora’s Box?

I think it would.

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