Race Weekend Central

Check Your Tin Foil Hat

For those of you who aren’t aware of it, this past weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway was the 40th anniversary of the first win for Hendrick Motorsports. It was only mentioned 4,872 times during the myriad of programs over the weekend. When the checkered flag flew, three of the four Hendrick team cars were at the front of the field. Social media immediately blew up with every armchair crew chief bellowing about how the race was fixed.

This just in my tin foil hat-wearing friends, the concept of rigging a NASCAR race at the highest level is simply an impossibility. The exception might be on superspeedways, where a tapered spacer with larger openings could definitely make it possible for one car to be superior to all of the others (see the 2001 summer Daytona International Speedway race). Any other race simply could not be rigged because there are too many factors involved, the biggest of which is the hundreds of individuals in the garage who would never stand for being part of letting someone else be predetermined to win.

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The barriers to fixing a race are almost too numerous to even count. Let’s look at some of the main ones. The top of every pit box has the brightest minds in racing, between crew chiefs and race engineers. They pour their lives into squeezing every ounce of power our of their cars and gaining every tenth of a second they can possibly knock off of their times.

After months and years of missing family events, time with loved ones and many other special activities so that their car is as fast as it can possibly be, there is no way in hell they are going to agree to let someone else simply finish in front of them. The vast majority of the crew chiefs are friends. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that they are going to agree to let another one of them just waltz into a win.

Secondly are crew members. That group of people at the track, along with the teams of people back in the shops, have busted their asses to dot every I and cross every T to make the car as perfect as it can be. They have practiced pitstops incessantly to make sure they are as efficient and thorough as possible.

After all of that effort and putting their bodies through all of the abuse to make everything as perfect as possible, they’re just going to say ‘OK, let the other guys have the win.’ The guys on the teams and in the shops know each other. Is there any chance whatsoever that, if a plan to throw a race came down from above, absolutely no one would let it slip to a friend or a media member? They can’t even keep paint schemes or driver moves quiet until the announcements.

Third, and this is the one place that, if your tin foil hat is picking up the perfect frequency, you might, just MIGHT be able to see something happen. The owners, also known as the RTA, are dictating a lot in the sport these days. They have regular meetings and make group decisions. Under the right phase of the moon, with the perfect amount of barometric pressure, and with the proper financial incentives, it could almost be conceivable that one owner be told they would win a weekend’s race.

The irony of it is that everyone of those owners is an Alpha male who has achieved everything in their lives by being the best and taking no prisoners. So even if they agreed behind closed doors in a secret meeting, the odds are that, once the cars were on the track, the agreement would be forgotten about and the owner would tell his team to go try and win. It is simply against their nature to throw anything to someone else.

Once you look at all of the factors on the teams and realize that trying to get 40 owners, 40 crew chiefs, 40 race engineers, 200 over-the-wall crew members, another 200 behind-the-wall crew members and thousands of people at the shops to all agree to throwing a race and having all of them promise to stay quiet, you still have the media involved.

The folks in the NASCAR media are always looking for a story and they are all friends with people in the garage. As soon as anything smelled remotely fishy about a race, even before it was finished, the folks in the media would be checking with all of their sources to try and find out what in the world is going on. With all of that pressure and people on the teams who are most certainly not going to be happy about a race being given to another team, there is no chance that all of the people in the know are going to remain silent. Once the word gets out from one source, the other media folks will be beating the bushes to get information and the whole house of cards would fall.

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The final thing to consider is that, the race is hundreds of laps long. You have all of these hyper-competitive individuals racing inches apart and pushing their machines to their limits. Even if the drivers are initially on board, as the race unfolds their competitiveness is going to bubble to the surface and overcome their handshake promise to throw the race. Even if the machines of the drivers who are supposed to win the race run flawlessly and there are no mechanical issues, they still have to stay ahead of the drivers who decide they aren’t going to stick to the plan.

For all of the people out there who think that throwing a NASCAR race is something even remotely possible, try and go out and find five of your friends. Talk to all of them individually about something competitive and get them to agree to let one person win. Then talk to five strangers who are into the same competitive exercise. Ask them to join in but tell them that you already know who is going to win. Then try and hold the event and see if it actually works out.

The odds are incredibly high that the person you selected will not finish first, even if they are wearing a tin foil hat.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Manipulating races is nothing new for NASCAR. The yellow flag is their magic wand.

No tin foil required.

Bobby DK

Maybe not the manipulation to pick an exact winner, but everyone has seen a yellow flag come out for the silliest thing at the most inopportune time. GWC finishes have been the cause of ruining many a drivers good day. Throwing penalties for one driver and seemingly looking the other way on others. Failing inspection three times, starting in the back and rocketing to the front. Just a couple things I’ve observed that I have shaken my head to.


Phantom debris cautions! Ring any bells? Letting a driver continue with flapping body parts until they fall off and get a caution and win the event? There are a lot more.


Would allowing a driver to jump the restart in a Toyota, admit he did it, then Nascar break it’s own rules and admit it, all in a race sponsored by Toyota be considered rigging a race !


A certain four cars run at the front pretty often during the last race of the year.


NASCAR has been the master of manipulation for years. Nothing new. They probably will not stop. Somehow though they expect the fans not to notice what they are doing.

Kevin in SoCal

Mike, I agree with you, but i think you missed the mark here. The conspiracies are not about the teams fixing the race, but NASCAR itself throwing random yellow flags and making calls that benefit or hinder one team or another.

But yes there are also fans out there who think its extremely easy for someone to spin out themselves or another driver so their boss driver can win. LOL


ha Kevin in SoCal – I agree with you but …didn’t we see that act once with Bowyer? Scratch your arm. I’m generally not a conspiracy theorist but humans are humans and they can/will find ways to cheat the system.

Kevin in SoCal

Yes, with Bowyer, But there were a TON of other circumstances that happened at the same time, too. And it just happened to work out.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kevin in SoCal

Doesn’t look so hard to rig a race now does it Tom. I mean looking at it from Nascar’s point of view.

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