NASCAR ‘Communicating’ To Owners, Drivers This Week

Charlotte, NC (May 25, 2009) – NASCAR is holding a mandatory ‘town hall’ meeting for all Sprint Cup team owners and drivers this week at its Research and Development Center in Concord, NC. The spin is the face-to-face with NASCAR execs will open the lines of communication between the sanctioning body and teams making for better racing, TV ratings and ultimately, more ticket sales. We’ll see.

While we applaud this most recent attempt to correct the downward trend that NASCAR racing seems to be in these days, you’ll have to forgive us if we’re skeptical that any changes of real magnitude will come out of these meetings. In fact, the Doubting Thomas in us says these sessions won’t be anything more than another ‘shut up and drive’ message from NASCAR after several competitors have openly discussed NASCAR issues in the media in recent weeks. Again, we’ll see.

Please forgive us if we see the timing of these sessions as a little suspect. While meeting agenda issues include the Car of Tomorrow’s extensive engineering costs and cars flying off the ground at Talladega – both worthy topics of discussion – they are only the veneer covering the real problems facing the sport. Front page stories like the one that appeared in USA Today last Friday detailing motorsports and most specifically, NASCAR’s current trials, call for circling the wagons. If things follow true to form, NASCAR’s real goal of this meeting will be to make sure everyone is standing in line, saying the right things, supporting the sport regardless of the decisions it makes (see sidebar on Carl Long below).

If it’s business as usual, there will be plenty of behind the scenes arm twisting at Tuesday’s meeting. Some voices of discord will be heard. Everyone will be ‘encouraged’ to play nice – a powerful tool if you are NASCAR and you own the whole show. Afterward, a number of top drivers and owners will make public statements about how they support NASCAR and how everyone is doing everything they can to make the sport better.

All we can say is ‘we’ll see.’

Long Gone – The odds are Carl Long will never win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Given his best finish in 23 career Cup events is a 29th, it’s a stretch he will ever finish in the Top-5 of Top-10.

Last week, NASCAR all but gave Long the death penalty at Charlotte fining him $200,000, docking him 200 driver and owner points, and suspending him for the next 12 Cup events after the engine in his car exceeded the maximum of 358.000 cubic inch displacement.

Long’s offending powerplant – an engine he purchased from someone else for the weekend – measured 358.170 cubic inches.

In yet another example of how NASCAR has lost touch with reality, Long was seemingly given the harshest penalty available. For a driver who comes to the track with fewer resources than almost any team in the garage area, the sanctions were more than crippling.

You’ve got to be kidding, right? We’re talking Carl Long here – a guy who has a 39th-place CAREER finishing average in 23 Cup starts over EIGHT YEARS. If you honestly believe Carl is cheating on purpose, then you also have to think he really, really sucks at it.

Worse, the guy can’t work now, barred from the garage area.

“This suspension has not only stopped me from racing, it has also hurt me with my everyday job,” said Long, who has stayed in the sport working for other teams in times when his driving career has stalled. “It’s hard to make a living working at the race track when NASCAR will not let you in. I can only hope that the appeal board will see things differently than the ones that came up with this penalty.”

We’re not sure who is dishing out the penalties at NASCAR these days, but giving Long – or anyone else for that matter – a punishment and fine of this magnitude is absurd.

“Why would you fine this man $200,000 for an engine that’s a little bit over?” commented SMI and Lowes Motor Speedway honcho O. Bruton Smith this past weekend. “We’ve seen that so many times. What is it proving? I don’t know who made that decision. In my opinion, they’re dead wrong. Some of the things that NASCAR can do can disrupt and ruin a person’s reputation, ruin their career. Two hundred thousand dollars? I’ve seen in the past where your engine may be a little bit over and maybe they take the engine.”

Smith went on to say “I don’t know Carl Long, but there’s an injustice done there. I hope he wins his appeal. He can’t race for 12 weeks? That’s so cruel to try to ruin this man. That would absolutely financially ruin him, and it’s just not right. I think you can prove your point a better way than that. When NASCAR does something that is so far out NASCAR loses a lot of fans when that happens. That’s something you wouldn’t think would happen in this country. It’s too dictatorial and it’s not good.” Amen, Bruton

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