[media-credit name=”David Yeazell” align=”alignright” width=”165″][/media-credit]When the dust had cleared at Las Vegas, Sunday had featured two folks in my opinion. One was Tony Stewart, who won this early in the season way back in…well, never. He drove like a demon to take his one, beating his own standard when he claimed Atlanta in 2002, the fourth race of that campaign. Stewart has finished second at the Daytona 500, but no wins have ever come his way this early.
The defending and three-time NASCAR Cup king is now in his 13th full season on the tour, but like an old bear he just doesn’t shake off his hibernation until winter is gone and spring has pretty much passed. He has now won just twice in March, once in April (2006 – Martinsville), and twice in May, back to back at Richmond in 2001 and 2002. Twenty-one of his 45 victories have come in the middle third of the year, with 19 coming down the stretch. Maybe his competitors need to sing some sweet lullabies to Tony, put him back into his slumber until June. An early rising Stewart can’t be good for any of them.
There was another fellow who made some news on Sunday. If NASCAR had their way, their kangaroo court might just fine this boy (secretly, of course) $100,000 for telling it like it is. Kyle Petty had a few choice words to say in regards to the appeal system Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson are presently involved in. To tell you the truth, he made it sound a lot like the courtroom of Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos.
If you don’t know about Bean, he was a man who shot another down, dueled another to the death, survived a lynching, and operated some saloons. Obviously a prime candidate to become Justice of the Peace in west Texas in the 1880s. Many a time the fines he handed out equaled the exact amount the accused happened to have had in their pockets. He was not empowered to grant divorces, but did so anyway while concluding wedding ceremonies with “and may God have mercy on your souls”, the traditional comment when handing out a death sentence. In short, Roy Bean made up the law as he went along, with little or no expertise in how to get it right.
That brings us back to Kyle Petty’s comments about those listed in the rule book as NASCAR’s 45 member appeals board. Three of them were picked, and decided that the Johnson-Knaus penalties were hunky dory. Due process? Well, maybe not. “Some of them may have passed away since their names were put in here. That’s how old these people are”, observed Petty. Maybe only a third of them had even been to a track in the past year, he furthered, do not have the expertise, and certainly could not be considered as the peers of those current drivers, team members, or owners. Or, as Petty stated, “These people don’t go to the racetrack, they don’t understand the process. They don’t understand sometimes where this sport is.”
By the way, Kyle also stated that the 25 point penalty handed out was no where near legitimate, in his opinion. Remember, the car in question had passed the templates before and, from what I understand, was not even going through the process when tagged using the ole eyeball method. It simply was at the track, but not yet presented for competition. In short, it had the same standing at that time as a Winnebago parked in the infield or a hot dog stand in the parking lot ; it was just there.
So, after Tuesday’s ruling Hendrick Motorsports takes this to NASCAR’s chief appellate officer to continue its appeal, all the while being very respectful to the powers that be. With his runner up finish at Las Vegas, Johnson sits 36 points out of a Chase place with 23 races to go before the deadline. That is doable, but it would be tougher should his crew chief, along with car chief Ron Malec, get an enforced six week holiday.
What about Kyle Petty? If NASCAR can fine independent contractors for making statements that they deem to be detrimental to stock car racing, what about an announcer? If they did, I don’t imagine Petty would find any support on the appeals board, unless the old fossils couldn’t remember what it was all about by the time they met.
What Petty said at Las Vegas had little to do as to whether the penalties were right or wrong, though we know what he thinks on that. It was about whether the appeal process constitutes a peer review of the issue or instead that they might be perceived as being just a rubber stamp committee of glorified hacks with little expertise who are less interested in doing what is right but rather doing what they are told. It should make for an interesting week as we lead up to Bristol.