Published on June 17th, 2008 | by Michael J Smith0
Let The Conspiracy Theories Begin
Anytime a driver wins in a somewhat controversial fashion, naysayers, and sometimes drivers, will begin to conjure up conspiracy theories as to why the winning driver actually won.
Add in the fact that the driver in question is NASCAR’s prodigal son. Add in the fact that this was a weekend when NASCAR needed a big win to redirect media attention. Add in the fact that, well, I think you get the point.
NASCAR.com is featuring an article in which both Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth question the handling of the final laps of the race.
There were a lot of things that happened there at the end of the race that are big question marks in my mind — and passing the pace car under caution was just one of them. You’re also supposed to make it around the track unassisted. There were guys pushing each other on fuel-mileage strategies. That’s not right. It’s definitely not legal, but they let it go.
Kenseth echoed that sentiment:
There’s nothing wrong with going down on the apron. It’s everybody’s idea to save fuel — but I didn’t think you could pass the pace car. [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] would stand on the gas and go 10 car lengths ahead of the pace car and shut the motor off. I thought it was confusing and I had to stay closed up.
Does this surprise anyone? It certainly does not surprise me. Personally, what I wonder is whether Kenseth and Vickers were questioning Jr.’s or NASCAR actions, or were they expressing frustration that they did not win? Probably a little of both.
In the end, some of NASCAR’s rules leave a lot of gray area. See Kyle Busch’s questionable two-tires-below-the-yellow-line-pass at Talladega to win.
In the 2007 Daytona 500, some fans were irate that NASCAR did not immediately throw the caution flag on the final lap crash. By not throwing the flag immediately, Kevin Harvick was able to edge his nose past Mark Martin’s for the win.
In 2004 at Talladega, NASCAR threw the caution as Earnhardt Jr. passed Jeff Gordon for the lead, but NASCAR determined Gordon to be the race winner.
I could spend two weeks here detailing every controversial finish and every “questionable” call NASCAR has made, but I will not.
To those who complain, deal with it. It’s just the way things go in the NASCAR universe. Sometimes the best car does not win. Sometimes underserving drivers win. Deal with it.
In the end, Earnhardt Jr. said it best:
They can write what they want, but we won one!