February 23, 2006 | 10:33 A.M. EST
But then something caught my eye — big time — and began stoking the fires within me concerning the subject.
I read a column written after Sunday’s race, and I won’t mention who wrote it — but his initials are Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — with the headline “Cheaters Never Win; Make That Almost Never.”
I almost lost my breakfast Monday morning. Not a pretty sight.
Mr. Bianchi wrote that Jimmie Johnson is the “new champion of the Dishonesty 500,” and that “this victory doesn’t deserve a trophy; it deserves an asterisk.” Those were the mild points of the column.
Yes, Knaus was caught cheating following Bud Pole qualifying the previous Sunday, and he was deservedly punished for his actions by being sent home by NASCAR. On Tuesday, he was penalized even further when NASCAR suspended him for three additional races and fined him $25,000. NASCAR should be applauded for its actions.
But Sunday’s race was not “The Great American Ripoff,” as Mr. Bianchi referred to it. Johnson’s car was inspected several times during the past week; including what I’m sure was a tremendously thorough post-race inspection Sunday evening. Johnson was forced to the rear of the field for his respective Gatorade Duel At Daytona qualifying race, and he raced his way back to the front.
NASCAR didn’t find anything illegal on Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Home Improvement Chevrolet during post-race inspection on Sunday, so it begs the question: How can Johnson’s victory be considered cheating?
I guess I should consider the source. This is coming from the same guy who called Ohio State cheaters after beating Miami for the national championship in college football. Bianchi beat that dead horse for over a year and wouldn’t let it go. Here’s to hoping he won’t continue to do that with the Daytona 500.
Bianchi should be given credit in one regard: Knaus has been caught “cheating” more times than he should be allowed. He’s in the midst of serving a four-race suspension, but should he be caught again sometime during the remainder of the season, he should be suspended the entire year, or perhaps into next year. NASCAR should even think about suspending him for life. That’s drastic, but it sends a loud message to anyone else.
I certainly don’t advocate cheating in this sport, and I never will. Anyone who gets caught fudging on the rules should be dealt with accordingly.
However, you can’t take away from what Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team did on Sunday. They went out and won “The Great American Race,” and they won it fair and square.
Maybe you put an asterisk beside your columns, Mr. Bianchi. Sensationalism may be good for you and stir up your readers, but it gets you no respect.