Race Weekend Central

Snitching: It’s the “Self-Policing”

“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

It’s a mantra you hear echoed in NASCAR rather often, and some people actually mean it! I mean, after all, a sport built on moonshine and running away from police has to be built on integrity, right?

Alas, teams bending and twisting the rules to find an advantage over their competitors is as old as racing itself, NASCAR or otherwise. Yet somehow every time a team is found to have either been out of bounds in NASCAR’s rulebooks or at least close to it, everyone reacts with, well, shock. They’re called a series of nasty names and noses are slightly turned up at their audacity to even think about trying to make their cars faster. How dare they.

So when both of the Penske Racing cars of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski were found to have unapproved rear end adjustments prior to the Texas race a few weeks ago, a collective gasp was heard throughout all of NASCAR Nation. When it happened, other teams were ready to pounce on an opportunity to criticize and it was a brief moment of shame for the organization.

Brad Keselowski’s team was hard at work in the Kansas garage on Friday, trying to forget the penalties that resulted from illegal rear-ends at Texas last weekend. Photo courtesy Rick Lunkenheimer.

However, Keselowski was having none of it and harshly criticized what appeared to be NASCAR in a post-race interview. A later report that surface which claimed that it was Hendrick Motorsports who reported Penske’s rear ends to NASCAR, though, says that it might have been the snitching that aggravated Keselowski.

Of course, for a while, no one was talking or admitting to it. Answers were left to speculation and were overshadowed by the wait for penalty announcements. Finally, though, in Kansas we got some answers as to whether or not drivers were telling on each other.

The answer, according to Jimmie Johnson, was a resounding “No.”

“There was a lot of activity around the Penske cars during the test day,” he said, “just like all the cars and everybody is watching, everybody is looking, but in no way shape or form did anybody from the No. 48 car walk into the truck and say anything.”

While this was an outright denial from Johnson, he did not deny that things like this do happen from time to time. After all, why would teams allow their competitors to gain an advantage when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get away with it?

“When you have success on your side, the magnifying glass the viewpoint for everybody, NASCAR, other teams, it gets a lot more intense,” said Johnson. “”The best officiating in the garage area has always been your neighbor. … So this environment does take place in the garage area.”

That doesn’t mean the five-time champion is ok with that, though.

“We don’t say something,” Johnson said, firmly. “We are a company built on performance. We are a company that tries to understand the rulebook as close as we can to the law. Sure, we have had our issues with it, but that is racing. It has been that way since day one of racing. We go in there and we try and be as smart as we can and conform to the rules and put the best race car on the track.”

For Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer, though, this is a non-issue.

“Who cares how you get caught?” he asked. “If you’re cheating, if you’re doing wrong, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing – it’s wrong. You’re going to get caught.”

That’s easy enough to say, and I tend to agree with Bowyer on this one. Let’s just say for a minute, hypothetically of course, that it was Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus who marched into the NASCAR trailer and reported the rear end housing to the officials. What difference would it have made? Both Keselowski and Logano would still likely have been caught while going through tech later on and would have faced the same penalties. It matters very little how they were discovered because eventually they would have been caught anyway.

However, I don’t think Penske Racing needs to be condemned for this. After all, they were just looking for a way to improve their performance, albeit by fudging the rules somewhat. I also think NASCAR is being overbearing with these cars and oversensitive when changes are made. Sure you have to draw a line in the sand, but suspending basically everyone who had any say in how that car was setup? That’s just not necessary.

As far as this supposed “snitching” scandal is concerned, I firmly believe it’s a good thing for this garage area to be self-policing. It keeps the racing competitive as teams can watch what the other is doing, and it prevents certain cars from gaining too much of an advantage. Isn’t that how we all want it?

It’s not like Brad Keselowski hasn’t had his own experiences with snitching, since it was him who was whining about illegal cars last year.

Maybe we all should just leave it alone, though, because according to Keselowski we have it all wrong.”

“Media- I’m missing something here,” he tweeted Friday. “Who cares if a team “ratted us out”? Clearly we felt like the parts were legal to begin with… #LetItGo.”

Yeah right, Brad. Obviously cheating happens all the time, but drivers reporting each other to NASCAR is a topic we’ve never covered in depth before. You really think we’re going to let that go?

Cheating, snitching, whining … it’s as old as racing itself. You would think we’d be used to it by now. Instead, we’ll attempt to focus on the racing and maybe next week we’ll be on to a new scandal.

You know. Like drivers dating or something.

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