Upon Further Review

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Upon further review, hell has officially frozen over.

Ol’ Scratch himself is slurping on an Oreo Blizzard in the confines of his formerly fiery environs, shivering and wondering when the thaw will hit.

OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit. Well, maybe a lot, but the news of the National Stock Car Commission rescinding a penalty has me all shook up.

The Commission, made up of three members, reversed NASCAR’s decision to penalize Michael Waltrip for allegedly saluting Robby Gordon out the driver’s side window with just one digit.

As a result, Waltrip has 25 more driver points, Teresa Earnhardt has 25 more owner points and $10,000 more dollars in the bank account.

Dale Earnhardt Inc. initially appealed the fine and deduction of points after looking at the video of the alleged “incident” and finding nothing but a wave in place of a flying bird. That’s all Waltrip had done, stuck his hand out the window and waggled his fingers—all five of them—as he passed by the accident scene.

This is a good thing, in my opinion , because the Commission took the time to review the tape, and two of the three commissioners found the same thing DEI officials did: no crime.

In the wake of Shockgate at Dover and Trunkgate at Talladega, credibility among the tech police at NASCAR was taking a bit of a beating. Jimmie Johnson won at Dover with shocks that were—technically—legal, and Kevin Harvick’s crew chief Todd Berrier was escorted from the track at Talladega for some junk in the trunk of Harvick’s car that did not, to say the least, amuse NASCAR officials in the Room of Doom.

While there are explanations for the difference in punishment—none in the case of Johnson and teammate Kyle Busch and a two-race suspension for Berrier (which he promptly appealed)—there is a decided air of protest in the garage area. Shock specialists on several teams knew exactly what had been done by Hendrick chassismasters, and they were not the least bit amused that NASCAR let it slide.

It wasn’t as if the shocks weren’t noticeable from the track. During a caution flag, Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented to crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. over the radio that the rear ends of both Johnson’s and Busch’s cars were way up in the air. “Yeah, you could stick a fence post under them, that’s for sure,” was Eury’s reply. Junior mused back, “there’s something not right there…”

He was right. NASCAR amended its shock rules immediately after Dover, but did not do anything else. Part of that is because the parts met the technical aspect of the rule, if not exactly its intent.

On the other hand, in meting out the punishment for Berrier, NASCAR mentioned the fact that Berrier was a repeat offender, having been caught with a doctored fuel cell at Las Vegas. NASCAR officials nailed Berrier with a four-race suspension for that little prank.

Team owner Richard Childress was livid following the latest incident, saying only that he couldn’t say what he was thinking or else he’d be suspended too. Dale Jarrett, who ended up winning at Talladega, was tight-lipped after Dover, saying he couldn’t understand what NASCAR was doing.

The rescinding of Waltrip’s penalty doesn’t fix either incident, but it does at least send the message that NASCAR is aware of its image and does indeed try to make the best call at the time…even if they didn’t at Dover and Talladega.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2005

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