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If the driver who (apparently) wins a NASCAR race is in a car deemed illegal afterwards, the outcome will be overturned.


In most sports, this would require no elaboration. It would go without saying. I know many will cite a recent officials’ call (actually, lack thereof) that affected the outcome of a game and the presence of one team and not another in the Super Bowl.

It’s really not the same thing. In fact, most of the time, when auto racing is compared to other sports, it’s not the same thing. One doesn’t have to cite apples and oranges. It’s ballplayers and drivers, or coin flips and caution flags, or high-sticking and driving below the yellow line.

All sports have alleged “no calls.” In football, it’s the absence of a flag on an obvious interference. In NASCAR, it’s the presence or absence of a caution flag when they’re on the last lap.

The change is overdue, but it will take some getting used to.

Be prepared to find out the guy you thought won didn’t.

The last time the apparent outcome of a race was overturned, it was for a judgment of aggressive driving against Ricky Rudd at the road course then known as Sears Point in 1991. Rudd crossed the line first, but Davey Allison was declared the winner.

According to NASCAR statisticians, no apparent winner has been disqualified following post-race inspection since Fireball Roberts on the Daytona Beach Road Course (part beach, part road) in 1955. Ahem, engine irregularities.

There are several examples of races overturned by scoring errors. Larry Frank’s victory in the 1962 Southern 500 at Darlington – Junior Johnson took the checkered flag – and Wendell Scott’s 1963 win in Jacksonville, Fla. – Buck Baker was first declared the winner – are famous examples.

What this change will require are guts and judgment. My view is that NASCAR should overturn a race won by a team that knowingly cheated, and that it should not overturn a race because of something plausible that occurred accidentally, such as changes to a car that took place from brushing a wall or another car.

Cheating has to be intentional, or so thinks I.

That’s tough, since it’s rare that an offending crew chief, or driver, or owner, admits to cheating. Invariably, whatever was deemed wrong didn’t make a competitive difference, or it was something they’d been doing all year and they never thought anything was wrong with it. It’s also rare that NASCAR responds. The team takes its medicine, NASCAR takes its money and life goes one.

This ends yet another of the old “gentlemen’s agreements” of a decidedly ungentlemanly sport. Kicking and screaming, NASCAR has drug itself into the 21st Century, where, as a general rule, the 20th seemed like a lot more fun.

The rulers of Imperial NASCAR hope this reduces the teams who will seek the unfair advantage. It might for a while, but changing the rules didn’t stop offensive linemen from holding, and it sure didn’t stop receivers and defensive backs from interfering with each other.

NASCAR officials expect teams to clean up their acts. I hope they realize they have to clean up theirs, too.