Published on June 19th, 2009 | by Michael J Smith0
In Long’s Case, NASCAR Did The Right Thing
Carl Long won his appeal earlier this week, having his 12-race suspension reduced to eight races. But, the National Stock Car Racing Commission left the record $200,000 fine in tact. And, as much as I like Carl Long, I think NASCAR and the commission made the right decision.
Long was penalized for having an engine that was larger than NASCAR’s required engine specifications. During practice for the Sprint Showdown, part of NASCAR’s All Star Race weekend, Long experienced engine trouble. He swapped engines. NASCAR examined the bad engine and discovered an issue. The engine was sent to the research and development center in N.C., where it was discovered that the engine exceeded the maximum cubic inch displacement specs by .17 cubic inches.
Long appealed the decision. He argued that he didn’t know the engine did not meet NASCAR specs, saying:
I would have never knowingly went to the race track with a big engine! … I don’t consider myself a cheater. I am addicted to the worse drug ever…racing! Every dime we have been able to scrape up, we use to race, because we love the sport. It takes about a half million in equipment to be able to build an engine, so I have to rely on other people and this time it bit me.
The problem is that NASCAR never considers whether or not the team or owner knew of the infraction. They only care about whether or not the rules were broken. And, in this case, they were. Even Long himself said that he never argued about whether or not the rules were broken. He instead was asking for leniency in part because of the size of his team, the circumstances around the infraction (it being a non-points-paying race and found during practice), and the fact that the penalty was so large.
But, NASCAR couldn’t show Long leniency. They could only look at the infraction, and assess a penalty that fit with that infraction. They can’t consider who committed the infraction or the intent behind the infraction. If they did, the consequences could be catastrophic.
If NASCAR started considering other factors when issuing penalties, then the governing body would become more of a joke. If, for example, Martin Truex Jr was penalized 150 points for unapproved wing mounts, and Dale Earnhardt Jr was penalized 25 points, teams and fans would be outraged by the favoritism.
Long’s situation is not much different. NASCAR can’t consider team size when issuing penalties because the larger teams would legitimately have an argument that NASCAR was unfairly punishing them for being fortunate. NASCAR also can’t lessen the fine just because a team can’t afford to pay it. I’m sure NASCAR has a formula for determining the fines and point penalties, and they have to stick to it because the only way to be fair is to be consistent.
I do think the penalty was a little excessive, but NASCAR has been consistent with its penalties, showing the teams that they aren’t messing around anymore. If you break the rules and get caught, you get penalized whether you are Dale Earnhardt Jr and Hendrick Motorsports or Carl Long and his tiny race team. NASCAR has to send a message with every penalty that cheating, whether known or unknown, will not be tolerated. And, in Long’s case, that’s exactly what they did.