The first three race weekends of the 2008 NASCAR season have already been rife with controversy.
- Daytona Speedweeks saw 5 Busch teams get nailed for infractions involving an oil tank lid.An unapproved nose tarnished Robby Gordon’s brand new Dodge affiliation.
- California saw empty stands, with nasty weather only partly to blame. A feeble attempt by NASCAR to run the race late at night was met with derision and anger by NASCAR fans.
- Vegas saw, for the first time, some really outstanding racing, but the post race discussion was focused on Jeff Gordon’s comments stemming from a particularly bad wreck. And then, the famous Carl Edwards Victory Backflip showed to the world, what the NASCAR inspectors had already found: An illegally unfastened oil compartment cover.
On Wednesday, NASCAR handed out penalties for the #99 team owned by Jack Roush.
NASCAR has issued penalties and fines to the #99 team that competes in the Sprint Cup Series, as a result of rule infractions found last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The #99 car driven by Carl Edwards was found to be in violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-Q (car, car parts, components and/or equipment used do not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-2.1J (any device or duct work that permits air to pass from one area of the interior of the car to another, or to the outside of the car, will not be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, the inside of the car to the trunk area, or the floors, firewalls, crush panels and wheel wells passing air into or out of the car) of the 2008 NASCAR rule book. The violations were found during post-race inspection at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 2. As a result, Edwards and car owner Jack Roush have been penalized 100 championship driver and 100 championship owner points, respectively. In the event the #99 team qualifies for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the team will not receive the 10 bonus points for the UAW-Dodge 400 victory used for determining the Chase seeding order. Crew chief Bob Osborne has been fined $100,000, suspended from the next six Sprint Cup Series events, suspended from NASCAR until April 30 and placed on probation until Dec. 31.(NASCAR PR)
Jack issued a brief statement that was PR speak on the penalties, and that they were considering an appeal.
(If you are new to the sport, and don’t understand why this is an issue, take a moment to read Diandra Leslie-Pelecky’s blog The Science of….Missing Oil Tank Covers . Her book is on it’s way to my house, I can’t wait to see what other information about the Science of NASCAR will help to fill out my knowledge base.)
Suddenly, the first salvo was fired over the bow of Jack Roush’s good ship Integrity. The shooter? No less than former Roush employee Lee White, now working for Toyota. In an ESPN article , White claimed that Jack did this intentionally. The battle between Jack and Lee has escalated. Jack gave very detailed explanations of what happened, and fired a few salvo’s back at Lee White. White is now recanting his statements, but admits he probably will wait to personally apologize, as Jack might still be a bit too angry.
Amazing to several people is the number of drivers that so willingly jumped on the “Jack did it intentionally” bandwagon. Laudable voices from the garage include Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson and what? who? Elliott Sadler?
My Friday afternoon group of NASCAR fans all hooted and howled when hearing of Sadler’s statement:
“I think that it insults my intelligence as a race car driver when you try and tell me that you accidentally left the oil tank lid off. If you go to any owner, any engineer, any driver any crew chief and ask them is that an advantage, ‘heck yeah it’s an advantage’. I’ve been doing that half of my career. When driving the 21 and 38 car, we pulled the shifter boot off and the oil tank lid off until NASCAR started to tech it.
- First, even Sadler fans had a giggle over the ‘intelligence’ comment. This is a driver who has made a career of being a likeable doofus, one that proved it by making an ill-conceived jump off a stage and landing firmly on a rail, instead of into the waiting arms of burly security guards. He beaned one of his Trackside cohosts during a softball toss. He joyfully jumped into wet towel contests during a rain delay ‘pool party’ on Speed channel. His Myspace page, for the short time that it was public and not private, showed pictures of his partying behavior. Indeed Sadler's commercials for Nextel, Tylenol, and Speed TV show that Sadler allows himself to be placed in the role of a clown. Fellow blogger One Lugnut Short, has even created a hilarious Elliott Sadler Drinking Game , since Sadler’s race comments are predictable and unoriginal. Never once would I, or many of my race friends, have considered Sadler to be a serious spokesperson for NASCAR.
- Second, many in the NASCAR Net World are pretty sure that Sadler was willing to jump on the Jack Bash Wagon because of an incident dating back to several years ago in a Busch race, where Carl Edwards punted Sadler for the win. There does appear to be continuing animosity towards Carl. Sadler’s business manager and spotter, Brett Griffin, even slammed Carl on the private Sadler Fan Club message board last year, after Carl and team mate Matt Kenseth had a confrontation that was very nearly physical in nature. Griffin claimed that the Sadler fans were now seeing what everyone in the garage knew about Carl.
- Third, after Sadler made essentially the same statements (as above) on Sirius Speedway Friday afternoon, host Dave Moody pointed out that hopefully GEM’s gig was a good one, because he was probably not going to get hired by Roush Fenway, if Sadler was ever looking for a ride. Sadler’s commentary at that point, turned into effusive gushing praise of Carl and his driving skill, but it came off as a huge ‘whoops, gotta backtrack now!’ moment. I saw a huge amount of irony in Sadler making the statements, after his own Team Owner was caught at Daytona in 2007 using bolts that did not meet 2007 inspection, and for an wheel well violation on the #9 car. Come to think of it, he also admitted to being a cheater, and also shoved the Yates and Wood Brothers teams firmly into the path of a moving bus. Way to go, Esad!