Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Commission Leaves Long With Short End Of Stick In Appeal

By Jerry Bonkowski

Like many, I was cheering for the little guy, the underdog on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Carl Long received nothing but jeers that day when he appealed his record fine and suspension to the National Stock Car Racing Commission.

The Commission denied Long's bid to be reinstated from a 12-race, 200-point penalty for having an oversized engine during a NON-POINTS race, last month's Sprint Showdown, part of the Sprint All-Star Race weekend.

The Commission also denied appeals by Long's wife (12 races, 200 points, as well) and crew chief Charles Swing, who is also suspended for 12 races, plus must also pay a $200,000 fine for the infraction.

All because the motor in Long's No. 46 Dodge was 0.17 of an inch over prescribed dimensions. When was the last time you measured 0.17 of an inch? It's not very big, is it?

This is a perfect example of punishment not fitting the crime. But instead of having guts, the Commission did what it usually does: it stood in lockstep formation with NASCAR and the penalties were upheld.

Oh, and by the way, while the Commission told Long he was off the hook for having to pay Swing's fine, there's a little Catch-22 situation as a result: Swing cannot receive proper credentials to work in NASCAR until he pays the fine. Even if he declares personal bankruptcy, which has been rumored is a possibility, Swing will likely never be able to earn a living in NASCAR until every last penny is paid, according to Long.

"At the end of year, though, they're still sitting there with their hands out," Long told "So my crew chief still doesn't get his 2010 license if it hasn't been paid."

I've heard of Mafia juice loan sharks with more compassion than NASCAR in this instance.

Oh, one other thing: Long is allowed to race or work in the lower levels of NASCAR – essentially any series, including Nationwide and Camping World Trucks – except Sprint Cup. There's only one problem with that: Long's full-time Monday-through-Friday day job is with Front Row Racing, which is a Sprint Cup team.

So, not only do Long and Swing get screwed on the front end, they also get screwed on the back end. Not only can't they race any longer, NASCAR has essentially put them both out of jobs.

Try explaining that down at the unemployment line.

I'm sorry, but what NASCAR did first, and which the Commission has upheld, is just not right. If the engine size was markedly exaggerated, yes, I would agree to a hefty punishment.

But, come on, 0.17 of an inch? I'd be willing to bet Brian France has a toenail that's longer than that.

Later Tuesday, after the futility of the appeal finally sank in, Long unloaded his frustration to

"Big Bill [France, NASCAR founder] and Bill Jr. ruled the sport like a father -- at the end of the day they took care of their family," Long said. "These guys don't care. They don't have any heart. Basically, it seems like they don't care about the sport, they just want to make a dollar. I truly have a sour taste of the management in our sport. They've forgotten the roots of how this sport was created, and who are the people buying the tickets, sitting in the stands. The people in the stands are me."

Given how many fans over the last few years have felt ignored by the sanctioning body, now Long knows all too well what they're feeling like – and why so many of them have turned their backs on the sport.

At a time when the sport has lost nearly a quarter of its TV audience and roughly 20 percent of its at-track audience, what NASCAR needs is to show forgiveness. After all, feel-good stories are much more popular than stories about bullies that want it their way and only their way – yet another example of how NASCAR continues just not getting it.


  1. Well written Jerry... As we've discussed, the INACTION of NASCAR in many instances is actually an ACTION in and of itself that is continuing to alienate more and more fans.

    As I've written here, NASCAR's tendency to NOT ACT is as big of a choice as any ACTION they ever actually take.

    It's sad, but I seem to recall that arrogance and greed is what impacted Indy Car racing so many years ago and ultimately led to the rise in popularity of NASCAR. Some say history repeats itself, but for the sake of the sport, I hope that rationality and common sense are found laying around somewhere on the floor of the offices in Daytona Beach.

  2. While I agree with the sentiment of your comments, Jerry, I don't think there was any other decision that could have been made here. The 12-week suspension is not without precedence and was handed down the last time this type of situation came up.

    The Commission made a valid point when they said it would be wrong to scale the penalty to the pocketbook of the violating team. That would be unfair. And while the penalty is harsh, it is also in keeping with the trend NASCAR has been following of coming down hard when they find violation, increasing with each infraction. One could say that they are sending a very clear message that any violation will not be tolerated.

    As minor as the 0.17 inch discrepancy might appear, and taking into account that Long's engine even produced 50 less HP than most engines, it is still the team's responsibility to make sure that the specs are met. Now, if they can prove that the cylinder size increased because of wear, overheating, etc., I would hope that the Commission would take that into account.

    As far as the Commission walking lock-step with NASCAR, that's not necessarily true. Remember Robby Gordon's penalty for having the wrong nose on his car at Daytona a while back?

  3. A thought that just hit me... What if all the 'one-car teams' simply decided to 'take a race off' as a way of showing support for Carl Long?

    Make it a race that costs more to get to than could be recouped by the money for finishing at the back of the pack...

    Wouldn't that leave just 37 or 38 cars in the field for that race?

    Those 'single car team' drivers could then all choose a LOCAL TRACK to go race at that weekend and provide a great incentive for more folks to go out and watch LOCAL RACING at their local track.

    Unless of course their collective action would be considered an 'action detrimental to stock car racing' that they could all be penalized for.

    How much of a story would THAT be!?

  4. Jerry, in spite of your passionate argument in favor of Long, I'm going to have to go with Tarheelrambler on this one. Do you think an oversize engine, no matter how tiny the overage is, would get by the people at Hendrick's, JGR, Roush Fenway, et al? I can tell you in two words: HELL NO.

    I feel for Carl Long and his crew chief, because their careers are effectively finished at NASCAR. And I'm not saying this in a bad way, but as a part-time owner-driver I'm sure Carl cut corners, almost by necessity. I wouldn't be surprised if small teams receive a part, look at the paperwork certifying that it meets NASCAR's specifications, and go from there. After all, Robby Gordon did just that with his Charger / Avenger nose, and it wound up costing him (at first, anyway).

    If there's anything that NASCAR has always been crystal clear on, it's this: The team is ultimately responsible for the parts it puts in its cars. And NASCAR is pretty clear that they view an oversize engine infraction as the most egregious violation deserving of the harshest penalty. We all want to think that if Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, or Tony Stewart ever get caught with an oversize engine they would receive the same penalty. The reality of the situation is that they most likely will never have that problem because their teams are meticulous and have the money to spend on resources to guarantee that they don't go out on the track with an oversize engine.

    You get onto a slippery slope when you start reducing infractions because of the ability (or lack thereof) of a team to pay them. All teams, big and small, know the penalties involved for breaking a rule, either purposefully or unwittingly, and understand that it's a necessary evil that they have to deal with. Carl Long *knew* this going in, and it was up to him and hos team to make sure that the engine he put in his car met NASCAR's specifications. End of story.

  5. Scott,
    You have the same idea I hadve, but I had an aditional thought. What if every race team came into the pits on lap 46,Long car nmber, stayed in the pit lane with no work for 46 sec, then slowly filed back on to the track.
    Now there's something people can talk about.


  6. I think I am "gone" as a fan after this season. Why, do you ask, are you hanging in for 2009? Because, I have fantasy teams and I will play out the leagues. Unless the greedy corporate horses patooties that run NASCAR change big time, I am finished. I will find lots of things to do on the weekend than follow this business entity (not longer a sport to me).

    Karen S

  7. What I want to know is: How in the blue hell does Carl Long make a living in NASCAR? He is the epitome of the term “field-filler”, and in looking up his stats over the course of his career he’s made 23 starts and averages a worse finishing position than he started with. I thought Sprint Cup was the premier series for NASCAR. What’s a guy like this doing in it? Is it messed up that he can’t make a living driving cars because of NASCAR’s decision? Yeah I guess. But, considering he had yet to qualify for any races this season, and I can’t find any stats on him post-2006, how much of a living was he making anyway? And how can he honestly call himself a “race car driver” in Sprint Cup when he can’t even qualify to race?


  8. Drumboy, read the above article... it points out what is the true penalty here... Carl's Full-Time Job is working for a Sprint Cup team... he's no langer able to keep that job without a NASCAR had-card to get into the Cup garage... bad enough that they took him out of racing... but they've taken this man's livelyhood away... and that's just NOT right

  9. What's really wrong here is that he and his crew chief are being penalized but the company that built the engine is not. If Goodyear made a tire the wrong size would the team that used it be penalized this severely? Or if a brake showe was .17 too large, etc.?


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