Monday, March 12, 2012

Does 2005 ruling doom Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR appeal?

   The year was 2005. But the argument made in the NASCAR appeals process is very similar to the one Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson plan to make on Tuesday.
   Team owner James Finch had argued before the National Stock Car Racing Commission that he could not be penalized for an illegal carburetor used by his team in a Nationwide Series race at Texas because it had passed the NASCAR inspection process several times previously.

   The penalties for the unapproved carburetor were harsh - disqualification of driver Johnny Sauter from the event (no points and money from the event), and a four race suspension and probation for the remainder of the year for the team's crew chief.

   The appeals board, however, would have none of it.

   "The onus is on the entrant to present a car that is legal at ALL times. The onus is not on NASCAR to detect every rules violation at every inspection," the board wrote in its ruling.

   In fact, the argument worked so poorly, the board actually INCREASED the team's penalty - adding a $25,000 fine to Finch in addition to the penalties already handed down. This is one of just two times in NASCAR history the appeals board INCREASED the penalties - which it has the power to do.

   Johnson was docked 25 points, his crew chief and car chief suspended six races and crew chief assessed a $100,000 fine for having altered C posts on their car prior to qualifying for the Daytona 500.

   One of the main arguments being made by Hendrick officials is that the car passed inspection four previous times in the same fashion.

   Will it work?

   Given the history, my guess is not a chance. In fact, the situation may only get worse.

What's up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin?

   It was a little surprising when late in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like he purposely ran into the back of Mark Martin in order to clear him while making a pass.

   For one, it's typically not a move made by Earnhardt. And second, it's even rarer to see Martin do something that upsets another driver so much.   

   Earnhardt was asked about the incident after Sunday's race.   

   "Personally, yeah, I don’t have a problem with Mark and have so much respect for him. But to me, personally, there is an unwritten etiquette that when the guy is running the top even if you are clearing him or passing him - if you barely clear him off the corner. I’m coming 10 miles an hour faster off the top of the race track, you stay low. Don’t knock a half second off my lap time being a jerk about it. Stay low. You are going to get it in the next corner and the position is going to be yours. Don’t pull up in front of somebody when they are going to come off the corner 10 miles an hour faster," Earnhardt said.

   “I didn’t really mean to put him in the wall but from the cosmetic standpoint it didn’t look like it hurt his car. Probably looked like it knocked some of the right front suspension off of it, and I am sorry about that. But, you know I felt like I was pretty frustrated at the moment before that happened, and that just kind of really sent me over the edge there.   

   "We just want to win really bad and felt like we should have finished better than we did today and I was just frustrated at that point and that is just not the way that I understand it to be done and I am sure he feels a different way about it but I think we definitely disagreed right there at that moment.”