NASCAR’s biggest controversy in 2022 has just occurred.
This is in response to radio communication between Custer and Shiplett during last Sunday’s (Oct. 9) NASCAR Cup Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
The communication between the two indicated they were intentionally slowing down to allow teammate Chase Briscoe, who was on the bubble to advance in the playoffs, to gain extra positions on the track. Briscoe made the next round by a mere two points.
NASCAR gets heavily criticized for its inconsistency, so its response has sparked some debate. Clayton Caldwell and Michael Nebbia debate whether or not NASCAR got the penalty right.
It Should’ve Been Harsher
Cole Custer’s penalty – 50 driver and owner points, $100,000 fine and crew chief suspended indefinitely – that’s a start.
But it doesn’t fit the crime that was committed late in the race Sunday at the Charlotte ROVAL.
What Custer did has clear and distinct parallels to Spingate, the controversy that torpedoed Michael Waltrip Racing at Richmond Raceway in 2013. You have your crew chief giving clear and distinct orders to alter the outcome of the race, to give one of their team’s drivers enough time and opportunity to get by someone they were battling for a spot in the playoffs.
You have a coded message from someone on the team to trigger the controversy and a driver holding up traffic to help out their teammate.
Look, I’m all for helping a teammate however you can, but what MWR did in 2013 with Spingate and what Custer did Sunday at the ROVAL are just the lowest of the low. NASCAR did more with Spingate than they did with Custer. NASCAR fined MWR’s drivers $100,000 each, put the crew chiefs on probation for the balance of the calendar year and docked each team 50 driver and owner points.
This was what brought in the “100% rule,” a rule that was clearly violated Sunday.
The penalty that would have fit the severity of the crime should’ve been a loss of 100 driver and owner points, $250,000 fine, probation of the car owners for the balance of the calendar year and suspension of the crew chief and spotter indefinitely, along with suspension of the driver for the rest of the season.
Custer’s blatant disregard of the 100% rule was more egregious than Spingate and should have been treated as such.
Spingate set the precedent for NASCAR penalties when it came to race manipulation. That precedent should’ve at least been followed or even exceeded here. The sanctioning body decided instead to lower its precedent. it failed miserably and gave Custer a slap on the wrist.
What sort of example is NASCAR setting by doing this? The fans might not ever know, but I think it’s a bad example going forward. Other drivers and teams will see this and think they can get away with anything and everything. They’ll think they can exploit the 100% rule to every degree possible while NASCAR isn’t watching.
Guess what? NASCAR should be watching even closer now than ever to make sure the 100% rule is followed following the debacle at the ROVAL. Actions like Custer and Spingate must be stopped before they are repeated again. And word to the wise, they will be repeated again. It’s only a matter of time.
The 100% rule instituted after Spingate was put in place to curtail race manipulation to the degree we saw Sunday and it has clearly failed. It’s time to either enforce this rule to the highest degree or lose it, NASCAR. – Michael Nebbia
This One’s Just Right
Cole Custer and Mike Shiplett should be ashamed of themselves, and the penalty fits the crime.
You can’t manipulate the rules and effect the championship outcome. They left NASCAR no choice but to handle this with a heavy hand.
It all goes back to Spingate back in 2013. That’s when Michael Waltrip Racing intentionally manipulated the championship when Clint Bowyer intentionally spun to bring out a caution flag when teammate Martin Truex Jr. was outside the playoffs. The radio communication between Bowyer, his spotter and his crew chief further proved that they were guilty and it was all done to get Truex into the playoffs.
Not only did Michael Waltrip Racing intentionally spin with Bowyer but they also had Brian Vickers, their third car, pit so Truex could gain another spot on the track and earn more points to get him into the playoffs.
In the end, NASCAR investigated and proved that MWR did indeed manipulate the playoffs and the finish of the race and NASCAR acted swiftly, as they should’ve. MWR never recovered and the team eventually shut down in large part due to the ramifications of the controversy.
While that was an example of someone manipulating the championship, the case of Custer and Shiplett wasn’t nearly as egregious as Spingate. I think we’ll all agree with that, and I think the problem a lot of people who think this was too soft of a penalty is that the precedence for a situation like this is Spingate. NASCAR handed out extremely penalties then, each car was penalized a certain amount of points and several team members were suspended and some were suspended indefinitely.
The biggest difference between Spingate and what happened with Custer and Shiplett is that Spingate was an entire organization working to manipulate the race for one driver.
While what Custer and Shiplett may have benefitted and certainly had the intention to benefit his teammate, but there is no clear evidence that Briscoe or anyone else at Stewart-Haas Racing had any ideas of what exactly was going on with the No. 41 team. The evidence only proves that the No. 41 team did something shady and no one else on the team. In this case it wasn’t an entire organization. That’s the biggest difference.
If you are on the other end of it, and you think NASCAR shouldn’t have acted at all and were too harsh, I ask you why?
There is clear evidence that the team and driver manipulated the race, playoffs and championship. They weren’t out there racing for their own good but rather racing to save their teammate’s championship hopes.
This is worse than some inspection violation. This is worse than any lug nut or wheel falling off. This is hurting the integrity of the championship and for any sport that is the worst thing that can happen. Can you imagine if a team in the NFL intentionally threw a game to benefit another team they had a better relationship with?
It’s hard to even fathom that.
NASCAR is unique because all their teams compete on the same playing field weekly even during the playoffs. Comparing it to other sports, it’d be wild to have a game with all teams involved and some have a chance at the championship and other are just playing for pride.
Naturally, it would be hard for the sport to prevent some kind of gamesmanship or shadiness from happening. That’s why strict rules are needed to prevent those kinds of things from happening. Which is another reason why NASCAR acted so harsh.
In the end, NASCAR acted the way it needed to to keep the integrity of the sport and the championship. It shows NASCAR would not play around. It didn’t this time and that’s the right call. – Clayton Caldwell
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