Alls Fair?

Richard Childress is a pretty ticked-off individual right now, and I can’t say as I blame him. A few days after two Hendrick crew chiefs got suspensions turned into probation, Todd Berrier’s appeal was turned down and he has to sit out three more races as a result of some shenanigans in Las Vegas.

“I'm frustrated with the situation,” Childress said. “I'm going to be there with the guys on the No. 29 on Sunday. I'm going to be right there on the pit box. I haven't been on that box since 2001. But I'm going to be there. I'm doing it more to show my organization how much I care about it. How I want to get this thing back on the right road. I have great, capable people in the pits, but with my presence I want them to know how sincere I am to get this team back in the winner's circle.”

The team has been struggling a bit of late. Harvick hasn’t won since 2003, and there’s been little bumps—like the driver criticizing the engine shop—along the way. Now this happens, and it must feel like Harvick and the entire GM Goodwrench team have a black cloud hanging over the transporter these days.

Among other things, Childress is unhappy with the way the penalties are being handed out, particularly to drivers, for something that the driver didn’t do or control.

“When NASCAR put the new points system in, I totally disagree from taking away points from the driver in any situation unless the driver has something to do with it,” Childress said Friday morning at Bristol. “If he gets out and jumps on the hood of somebody's car, he should lose points. But, I think they should penalize the owners more, whoever is accountable for that car and 99 percent of the time, the driver never has a clue what happens. With the new points system, it's based on the driver getting in the top 10. Penalize us owners, have them take the money away from us and take it away from the crews. But don't penalize the drivers who don't have anything to do with it. I think it's time for NASCAR to revisit the penalty system based on our new points system. “

Childress also said that the fact the infraction—which Berrier freely admitted—tool place in qualifying is the source of a large part of his problem with the whole deal.

“What happened to us was wrong,” Childress said. “Todd Berrier was wrong. We deserved to go to the rear of the field. We got penalized for starting 42nd. Then we got a fine--I was expecting a fine. We deserved a fine for what we did. We deserved a suspension. That's the reason I kept him out a week before we even went to Atlanta, before we came up here before our appeal. But to take four weeks from us in qualifying, that's where I disagree.”

Childress said the process was over, for him. “I'm not going to appeal it to the commissioner,” he said. “I've been in too many appeals. I can say I'm batting .1000 in that: we've never won one.”

Childress is an old-lion NASCAR car owner. He has six series titles to his credit and one of the top organizations in the sport. When he’s talking like this, it reveals that there is much more going on with all this than meets the eye.

Childress is correct in the sense that NASCAR has opened a can of worms. The point system has been changed to narrow the field at the end of the season, to allow 10 drivers to duke it out for the title. Now, by assessing penalties in the same old way, NASCAR will affect the very sponsors it tries so hard to attract..

What do the folks at GM Service Parts Organization (GMSPO) think of the four-week suspension, and what it does to Harvick’s chances of making the Chase?

“For the first time that I can remember, the top people at GM Goodwrench called me and said, ‘why four weeks? What happened?’ So, we had to explain how it will affect you in the Chase,” Childress said. “And it could be just like Jamie McMurray last year. I don't think it was fair in their situation to lose 25 points (for uttering a forbidden word after the race during an interview). NASCAR has to come up with a way to penalize the owners--take my car, do something--but they need to leave the driver points alone. That's a stick they can hold over your head but it's not a fair stick because it affects too many people when the driver’s points are taken away when they don't have anything to do with a situation?”

NASCAR President Mike Helton has hinted broadly that in the near future, a victory could be taken away if the infraction warrants it. That runs against long-standing NASCAR policy that goes all the way back to Bill France Sr. He never wanted fans to leave the track thinking one driver won, then read that another driver had been declared the winner.

Whatever happens from here on out, it will be interesting to watch. Too many balls are in the air at the same time, and if NASCAR isn’t careful, some of them will hit the ground.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2005

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