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DATE News (chronologically)
04/26/07
nascar
NASCAR has a history of fixing races  It’s a shame Tony Stewart besmirched a sport’s good name when he compared NASCAR to professional wrestling. Pro wrestling doesn’t deserve such a cheap shot.

At least pro wrestling makes no bones about its outcomes being preordained. NASCAR fans have to wonder week after week, when a caution flag comes out for microscopic "debris" or some great driver story unbelievably unfolds before their eyes, whether some wrestling-style scriptwriter is at work.

Some within the sport have whispered about such shenanigans for years, but Stewart was the first brave/dumb enough to say it: NASCAR is "playing God" with races. Even if it isn’t — and no one has irrefutable proof NASCAR finagles which driver finishes in what spot — Stewart’s comments at least highlight that NASCAR should start worrying that its image its tilting way too hard on the entertainment side of the entertainment/sports scale.

The temperamental two-time NASCAR champion didn’t use the word "fix" specifically in his rant during his Tuesday night show on the Sirius Satellite Network. But Stewart’s statement that NASCAR "can almost dictate the race instead of the drivers doing it" dredges up a lot of memories of too-good-to-be-true finishes.

Think about way-past-his-prime Richard Petty winning his 200th NASCAR race at Daytona in 1984 in front of President Reagan on Independence Day weekend. Indiana native Jeff Gordon winning the inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994. Dale Earnhardt Sr. winning his first Daytona 500 late in his career in 1998, on the opening day of NASCAR’s 50th anniversary season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the Pepsi 400 in 2001, the first race after his father died that same Daytona track. For that matter, Juan Pablo Montoya, the only Latin American driver in the race, winning this year’s Busch Series event in Mexico City.

During Montoya’s Busch victory in Mexico City, the flag sat still during early-race spins that one would think would force a caution. Yet later in the race, when Montoya was closer to the top, the debris cautions came out, allowing him to close some space.

These aren’t suspicious finishes brought up by some hack sports columnist. These are finishes commonly cited by beat writers and fans when talk turns to NASCAR’s extraordinarily good fortune in getting the result it needs, when it needs it.

And cited by those inside racing as well. A 1994 AutoWeek story quoted, anonymously, drivers and crew chiefs claiming NASCAR allowed Gordon to run a lighter car at that year’s Brickyard 400. The same story also reported sources saying Petty was allowed a larger carburetor restrictor at his 200th victory. Meanwhile, in 1994 the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record said 14 out of 30 "top members of the NASCAR family" said they believed the circuit singled out certain drivers for special treatment, though only two said their teams were the beneficiaries. In 1998, racing writers Mike Mulhern and Robin Miller quoted more anonymous sources talking about a phenomenon known as "making the call" — when NASCAR officials let everybody know who is going to win today’s race.

In 2001, Earnhardt Jr.’s charge to the top of field was so suspicious — yes, he’s good at restrictor-plate tracks, but nobody could pass that day — that many writers and fans openly accused NASCAR of "making the call" so he could win. More at MSNBC.com

More proof that everything in NASCAR is manipulated: "They tell you when to get out of the car, when to smile, what hat to put on." Jeff Gordon

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