Friday, March 07, 2008

Wheat from chaff and fact from fiction

HAMPTON, Ga. - I had a little discussion with a caller to the Sirius NASCAR Radio morning show Friday morning about reporters like me trying to find out "the truth."

The caller admonished me or some other "investigative reporter" to go out and find out the truth on reports that dynamometer tests run earlier this year show that Toyota has a clear horsepower advantage over the other makes.

Citing numbers given to them by sources, presumably from those other manufacturers, some people have reported a 20-horsepower gap between Toyota and Chevrolet, for instance.

The caller said he wants to know the real numbers and expects people like me to get them.

My point to him was that even if I had the actual report printed out and given to NASCAR with the raw data from the test itself, I'd have no more of a chance of telling him "the truth" than the people who're reporting the numbers they've got have been able to do.

Mabye I could tell him what that test of those particular cars done on that particular dyno on that particular day under those particular conditions with those particular operators doing the testing. But what would the numbers mean?

I could show those numbers to people working for all four manufacturers and get four different interpretations. NASCAR, undoubtedly, would give me a fifth.

If I could find 40 "independent" experts, they might give me 40 different readings of the data.

Or they might tell me that data, in and of itself, really tells you nothing. Horsepower is only one part of what makes a race car go fast, you know.

The point I was trying to make became even more relevant, I think, later in the day with all the action and reaction over penalties levied against Carl Edwards' team for violations found after his win at Las Vegas.

This literally happened, word for word and step for step.

Jack Roush came to the media center to defend his team and aver that it had no culpability in the lid being off the oil reservoir containter in Edwards' Ford after the race last weekend. There was another news conference scheduled in the media center, so we followed Roush to the 99 hauler and he continued his defense.

So I spent maybe 45 minutes hearing Roush's side of what happened. I then walked out of the back of the 99 hauler and walked immediately into another team's hauler in the garage.

I hadn't even made it to the lounge in the back before somebody stopped me and told me that what the 99 team did at Vegas was one of the most blatant examples of cheating he'd ever seen.

I had drivers roll their eyes, literally, at the explanation offered by Roush Fenway Racing that a fastener "failed" because of vibration harmonics. Dale Earnhardt Jr. actually called that explanation "comedy."

NASCAR penalized the team. Some people think Edwards got the 100-point/$100,000 fine/six-week crew chief suspension version of a penalty because it came in a "car of tomorrow" and that's sort of the standard penatly.

But a NASCAR official told me this week that this is not that type of violation.

That means that if NASCAR didn't think this type of infraction was serious the team likely would have received smaller penalties.

OK, which version of "the truth" do you want me to write? Roush's version, the garage area's version or NASCAR's version?

About all I can do is lay out all three and let you make your own judgment as a reader. I can try to ask as many people as I can what they think, but everybody you talk to has a bias one way or another.

When I write columns or this blog, I can give you my opinion. That's "the truth" as best as I can figure it out, and at best that's going to have to factor in my own views on things no matter how fair I try to be in drawing my conclusions.

I certainly would be great if I could tell you "the truth" in everything I write. But in this context, the opposite of truth isn't so much lies as it is viewpoints.

"The truth" is there somewhere. I understand that.

What I would tell you, though, is to be wary of anybody who acts like they've got the franchise for handing it out. More often than not, those people wouldn't know truth if it socked them upside the head.


Anonymous said...

David this was actully a great post!...Nascar is like a soap opera, and everyone needs to know my eyes let the people's court be the far as they Dyno Numbers...Poppycock!...there are too many variables outside in the real world

Anonymous said...

David - I too agree with your post. Most of our opinions are clouded by who we like and who we don't like. However, when many people say one thing and just a few disagree, I tend to listen to the many instead of the few. But that doesn't mean I've chosen the right side. In most cases we should use our common sense.

Regarding the Toyota hp numbers, I believe NASCAR would make changes if the yota has a big advantage.

Anonymous said...

They all are gonna have different opinions, just like us fans. If each one of them have been honest each race and have never tried to take an advantage at some point then they can cry foul. IMO, every single team out there has tried something to gain an advantage to win a race. The #99 got caught, plain and simple. If they used one fastener to hold it and it failed ok, maybe somebody on that team knew it would maybe not, who knows? What I cannot figure out is why would another GM jump up and say "they cheated, I know they did, we tested these scenarios and this is the outcomes." Especially after last season with fuel episode? It sounded to me, like we are looking for ways to gain advantages unfairly. Of course that is just my opinion but that is the way I took it.

Anonymous said...

Rules are rules and should be enforced, whether the incedent was an accident or on purpose, we will never know, nor should we care. The fact is,,Nascar loves the drama that these controversies create. They played the "What happens in the hauler, stays in the hauler" incident to death,,,and you know what? It worked,,,just like this controversy and Nascar is lovin it.

Anonymous said...

Like you, I could give a S#$^ about dyno numbers - who cares? However, I did hear you say the other day that Nascar fans are apathetic when it comes to cheating and I believe you said that most "expect it" and "don't care" when it happens.

As a fan of 40 years, your "observations" cannot be further from the truth. This "sport" will never be taken seriously by the holier than thou stick and ball types until the cheating is dealt with in a very serious manner. The "redneck", "poor white trash" and all other derogatory monikers will continue to be applied, and this "sport" will continue to be ignored by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and all other "major" league city newspapers until cheating is eliminated or at least dealt with in a realistic manner.

I believe 99% of true Nascar fans want their driver/team, etc. to win fair and square and the other 1% we can live without.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of NASCAR and other racing and I am sick and tired of the holier-than-thou media - especially the eastern, big city, "we're smarter than you" media - pointing at NASCAR as the only place "cheating" occurs. You did not hear ESPN or the NY Slime categorize Dirk Nowitzke's attempted beheading of the Utah Jazz player this week as "cheating." The so-called cheating in NASCAR seems to get more derision from the big media outlets than the "cheating" for which the NE Patriots was punished.
Trying to bend the rules occurs in most sports and many other areas of life - but the the media gods (I guess that's redundant) call it cheating when is's in racing, but not when it's in the NBA, NHL, NFL, or baseball, unless someone has not been adequately respectful of the press.

David, unfortunately most of your peers do not feel their readers need more than just one side of most issues.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I wish I could agree with you - and to a point I do. I do believe that the 'eastern' media doesn’t take NASCAR very seriously, and there are a number of reasons for that, only one of which is cheating. Sadly, as a fan living in the northeast, I hear all too often from others up here derogatory remarks about our sport. As recently as a few hours ago I was watching the Nationwide race at work (I have a great job!), and one of my coworkers walked in, saw it on TV, and said 'Oh, redneck rodeo. How can you guys stand that crap?'. Sadly, that’s more common up here than many other parts of the country, and the media just follows along. A newspaper has limited space in its sports section, a TV station has limited time in its local sportscast, and they will report on what interests the viewer/reader. There are a lot of race fans up here, but even more non-fans sadly. As far as cheating, the media groups (thankfully) don’t report the majority of it. I only heard minimal reports of the 99 violation this week, even on ESPN; it never even hit any of my local stations or newspapers. (Thank God for Sirius and the internet!). I would argue that the steroid scandal in baseball and spygate in football has been reported on in the mainstream media much more so than anything in NASCAR. Also, I wouldn’t call the Dirk Nowitzki situation cheating, rather just a hard flagrant foul. To call a foul in an NBA game 'cheating' is stretching it, no matter how hard it is; just like holding in football or hooking in hockey isn’t cheating.

It is sad that there are fans out there that promote cheating in our sport, until we adopt a true zero tolerance policy, we will always have to deal with this image. Sadly, because of the Robbie Gordon decision, we will never be able to fully cleanse the sport of the cheaters.

Anonymous said...

nh_nascarfan - I do appreciate degree, but I am not sure I see the difference between intentionally breaking a rule. What I most object to is the big-city, mostly northeast, media categorizing every rule breaking in racing as being "cheating," but none in other sports, except for steroids and Bill Belicheck (which I think I misspelled). If holding was enforced in the NFL or travelling in the NBA to the same degree rules are enforced in NASCAR, the games would take all day. I just feel the media is not consistent in how they describe rule breaking - and my favorite sport is the one that bears their bias. I really believe Nowinski's flagrant foul deserves more criticism than Roush's alleged cheating, since no one was going to be injured physically by Roush's actions, but a 7 footer being clothes-lined could have been- and I am not a fan of Jack Roush.

Anonymous said...

Poole, I haven't been one of your fans, mostly because I really do believe you talk down to fans and readers and treat us like children. I have seen it in Eli Gold too. The reason I think is that you guys see and hear a lot from fans and you get so jaded that your entire attitude and body language changes. It shows on Eli's Tuesday night show and it shows in your writing...Having said all that, your article on "Here's what we really ought to be talking about: safety" is very good. My beef with all this is that the media NASCAR track owners and even the drivers are at these racing facilities for days twice a year and you can or should be able to see the same things we see, which that there are still dangers -- wall dangers -- out there that could be fixed. In no way am I saying that you can eliminate all dangers from men and machine going 200MPH for three hours. But the place at Las Vegas that Gordon is as plain as the big nose on my face. You could tell when track owners and NASCAR started installing these walls that almost the bare minimum was their MO. I would suggest that two respected members of the media , 3-4 drivers, 3-4 car owners, 3-4 NASCAR bosses and the track owner walk each track, sooner than later, and just eye-ball where the most obvious problems are. It would be simple. The obvious are still out there. For instance I think that Dover's pit road is a travesty and I have been saying that for some time. To do 35MPH on pit road is a STUPID way to run a car race. I have been in Dover's pits. And by the way, I am not against people making money, but Dover has been a huge money maker for years. A little CapEx money to fix pit road and make nice garages isn't going to break anyone. But Dover's pit road and garage area is 1850s-style, not even in the New Millennium yet. Chop that hill behind the pits and widen that baby and put in modern garages (now maybe they are rehabing the garages now I dunno). I have competed on pit road at Dover many years ago. It was unsafe then and it's still unsafe, many many millions of dollars later. So you are on the right track.

Anonymous said...


I do indeed agree about Nowitzki. There is a difference between a standard violation (foul, traveling, etc) and a hard flagrant foul that may injure someone. Be it the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB, as well as NASCAR, actions during the event that can injure the opponent need to be dealt with severely, including heavy fines and suspensions. But to call them cheating? I think that may be pushing the envelope. Yes, both are serious, but there is a difference. What happened with Roush Fenway racing was blatantly cheating in order to gain a competitive advantage, and apparently it’s been a well known tactic in the garage. Judging by the way other drivers and crew chiefs have reacted, I think it’s about as blatant as it gets. If you add in the hard core numbers provided by Lee White of Toyota racing, then it looks to be an open and shut case. Yes, I know White may have a bone to pick with Jack Roush, but he did provide actual data for the first time. If you look at everything together, it seems to me that Rousch knows deep down his team was busted and an appeal probably won’t help. Incidentally, what makes this such an issue compared to the Robbie Gordon incident, or the 24/28 and 8 of last year is that the 99 actually ran the race with an illegal car - and won the race!

I'm not sure that the media picks on NASCAR any more than other sports when it comes to cheating/rules violations, but what I do know is that NASCAR is very inconsistent in how they interpret and enforce the rules, which completely discredits our sport; not only to the mainstream media, but to our very own core fans which is what is really disturbing.

Did anyone notice that the 07 team had a very similar tire incident last year (in Dover I think) as the 99 team did in Vegas last week? Someone interfered with the crew and they lost control of a tire; they were running in the top 10 but ended up restarting in the 30s because of a penalty. Sorry, I don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember wondering why on earth the 99 team wasn’t penalized, especially if they don’t judge intent. Nothing against the 99 team, but when you consider that combined with what those more in the know than myself claim was blatant cheating, doesn’t that somehow diminish the Vegas 'win'? And yet going into today’s race in Atlanta, Carl Edwards has still ‘won’ 2 races in a row - is it any wonder why the mainstream media and the 'stick and ball' folks don’t take us seriously?

By the way - food for thought: In the middle of this controversy, did anyone notice what else (besides NASCAR weekend) happened in Atlanta last night? The NBA decided to replay the closing minuets of an earlier Hawks-Heat game when Shaq was credited with his 6th foul when he only had 5, thus fouling out? In the spirit of fairness and competition, the NBA re-played the game from the point where he would have fouled out. NASCAR on the other hand? Allow the win to stand in the face of Carl Edward being handed a win that hindsight shows he didn’t earn fairly.

I never thought I would say this, but NASCAR should take a lesson from the NBA. Not necessarily re-running the entire race, or even the point where Edwards should have been penalized for the pit road incident, but disqualifying him and stripping his win and all that goes with it, combined with the 100 point penalty and 6 race suspension. Until NASCAR comes down that hard on cheating, it will continue to occur and we will never be taken that seriously.

Anonymous said...

The elite, holier than thou media types from New York and Washington can kiss my Southern ass. Their stick and ball heros have their own problems with steroids, human growth hormones and staying out of jail for violent behavior, spousal, animal abuse, and the rest of their woes.

If the NFL, NBA, or MLB policed their sports just 1/2 as well as Nascar attempts to, they would have far fewer problems.

Anonymous said...

If NASCAR and its fans want the sport to be taken seriously, it needs to promote the drama ON the track and ignore the drama OFF the track.

I think we need to bring back stuff like the No Bull 5. Things that encourage the drama between races. Now it just seems like each race is an independent package and we just sit around and wait until the Chase starts. JJ's chase last year with winning 4 in a row to compete with his owner and 4 time champ is stuff of legend. Tony throwing punches in the NASCAR trailer is not.

I hope NASCAR takes lesson from baseball. This steriod business will have a major impact on the perception of that sport.

Anonymous said...

'The elite, holier than thou media types from New York and Washington can kiss my Southern ass.'

Lynn, its statements like this that make people feel they are 'elite and hoier than thou'. Show some class and prove we deserve to be treated like human beings rather than like uneducated white trash Bud guzzling inbred rednecks.

Anonymous said...

What happens off the track has tons of implications on the track. My eyes and ears tell me what happens on the track.

Now Really,,,Nascar taking lessons from baseball? Let's all pray that doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Incidently Lynn, in case you havent noticed the 'elite holier than thou' media from New York and Washington have paid plenty of attention to ongoing problems in baseball, NBA & NFL... plenty more than they have the problems in NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Am I supposed to really CARE what the elite, holier than thou media types think of me? I could care less how these high brows think of me or the sports I support. I was Nascar when Nascar wasn't cool and their opinion means nothing to me.

Anonymous said...

nh- I still have a hard time seeing why intentionally fouling another player, and risking seriously injuring him, to prevent a score is not cheating.

Interestingly, I am now reading that the loose oil sump cover has been a well-known tactic for years- but I have yet to see anyone in the media ask any complaining driver or crew member whether he had ever been involved in using such to gain an advantage. HMMM?
Also last year Roush repeatedly cried wolf about how Toyota was going to run rough-shod over the rest of NASCAR - a smoke screen to get more money out of Ford that the media never challenged despite ample evidence to the contrary. Now Toyota is getting back at Roush, but I don't see the media mention that either.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, if you didnt care you wouldnt be so upset by it. You would take the high road and not comment, as they dont know what a great sport they are missing out on.

Anonymous said...

DH... it's the favortism for the Hendrick's team that gets me. I get so tired of your ramblimng on and on about JJ and JG. Facew it you're in a rut.

Anonymous said...

Richard -

I think it’s just a matter of labeling it what you like. The bottom line is that it is indeed a rules violation, so using that criteria, it is indeed cheating. I personally - and this is just my opinion - wouldn’t call it that as to label every rules violation that takes place during competition as cheating waters down actual cheating, but yes, by the very rigid definition it is cheating. Technically speaking, traveling in basketball, slashing in hockey, holding in football are all 'cheating', but there are predefined penalties for each of those 'in competition' infractions. My view of cheating is something greater than a typical violation; even in the Nowitzki situation which was most likely a split second decision rather than a premeditated rules violation. Of course, he was wrong and should be punished, but I personally wouldn’t call it cheating - just a VERY unprofessional move by someone who is supposed to be a professional.

I’m not surprised that the media hasn’t gone more in depth into this oil cover issue, for a number of reasons, with the biggest being that even if they ask, they will most likely not get an honest answer, at least from anyone still active in the sport (perhaps ask Junior Johnson?).

It is interesting how Toyota struck back against Jack Rousch this week, and despite Lee White back peddling in his comments after the fact, they still delivered a direct hit. I'm not sure 'ole Jack knew how to take that, I think he was completely flabbergasted.

What I found most interesting is that Toyota had actual wind tunnel numbers - or at least claim to - that show an additional 170 lbs of downforce; they also stated that by 'adjusting' the bumper the way the 99 team was accused of doing during the Vegas race would add 70 more pounds. Jack Rousch seemed 'shocked' that they would test illegal setups; while I am not a big fan of Toyota, I would be shocked if any team didn’t have that data. How can you fully understand downforce if you don’t play with every possible scenario, both legal and illegal? If nobody else has that data - highly unlikely - then its no wonder Toyota is as strong as they appear to be this year.

Although the mainstream media didn’t cover it much in depth, it was USA Today - specifically Nate Ryan - who initially published the comments, and it has received a ton of attention since it broke on Sirius.

Anonymous said...

Who is DH? And where did HMS figure into all of this?

Anonymous said...

I get a great giggle out of the holier than thou "we shouldn't cheat" fans - don't get me wrong - you are right. It's just that you might be a teensy bit diluded, like MLB fans were (are) that those hunky hitters are lifting weights at night. I think all this is about the definition of cheating.

Inre #99 - my only question is what are the chances of three (3) bolts coming loose - there are 3 holes for bolts. However, everyone says only one was used - is only one required?

I couldn't agree with your post more David, sometimes we fans need to be reminded about what is the truth and its definition - which changes constantly in NASCAR.