NASCAR & Auto Racing

Right or wrong? There's really just one 'right' answer to that one

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Two standards. That’s one too many. Is a rule a rule only if someone breaking it “means” to? Is it a rule only when a violation provides an unfair advantage? Or is it a rule because it’s a rule?

Should someone’s age, status or overall character factor into how his behavior is perceived? Or should only his actions and their consequences be considered?

There’s only one right answer. That’s all there can be.

Carl Edwards was docked 25 points and crew chief Bob Osborne was fined $25,000 because the No. 99 Ford Edwards won in last weekend at Dover was too low on the right-rear corner in postrace inspection.

Roush Fenway Racing has appealed. It claims the penalty is unfairly severe as Edwards competes in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, and further contends that having a right-rear corner that’s too low actually would’ve hurt the performance of Edwards’ car.

Here are two points not in dispute. First, a rule exists that establishes a minimum height for that part of the “car of tomorrow” following each race. Second, Edwards’ car was not in compliance with that rule. Why does anything else matter?

Earlier this year, Jeff Gordon’s team lost points when NASCAR ruled it had made unauthorized modifications to the new car’s body for a race at Infineon Speedway.

“Everything that NASCAR does to make the cars more equal and make the competition tighter, it also puts NASCAR into a tighter box to have cars not meeting those requirements when the race is over,” said Gordon, who starts fourth in Sunday’s LifeLock 400 .

“You're in a much narrower window for everything to be right.”

But Gordon’s team and Johnson’s team have had it right since Infineon. Neither has incurred further penalties. Do you think there’s any chance the No. 99 Ford will be too low in another postrace inspection this year?

I don’t.

Fans complain that NASCAR makes up its rules as it goes along, but when the sanctioning body goes by the book some also criticize the sport’s referees for saying a ball is foul when it’s foul.

Which is the right way? Only one can be.

Denny Hamlin put himself into a no-win predicament last weekend at Dover by wrecking Kyle Petty in an incident that was entirely Hamlin’s fault.

Did Hamlin dump Petty out of impatience or insolence? Again, does it matter?

Petty had a right to be angry. But Petty had no right to go to Hamlin’s car, wag his finger in the younger driver’s face and slap down the face shield on Hamlin’s helmet.

As a man, Petty is above reproach. If your pastor is a good of a man as Kyle Petty is, the Lord has blessed you. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be wrong.

“No matter what you do, Kyle is going to be right,” Hamlin said, trying to walk a delicate line. “So, really, I've just got learn to grow up as far as that's concerned.”

But Hamlin doesn’t duck a direct question, a quality some fans at least claim they’d like to see more of. So when asked what the reaction would be if the roles had been reversed and Hamlin had gone to Petty’s car, he answered.

"It’s tough to say but there is a double standard,” Hamlin said.

“I am the relatively new guy and he’s the respected veteran. ... I didn’t approach him, he approached me. That’s what kind of set me off. They show me getting out wanting to fight, but there was a lot that led up to that. It’s tough to figure out what’s right and wrong.”

It certainly is, considering that some of the same fans saying Hamlin was wrong to come back on Petty would be calling Hamlin names like “wimp” if he hadn’t responded.

Or, considering that in some fans’ eyes, the element most sorely missing in NASCAR days is the greater frequency of a good old fashioned fist fight.

On talk radio in Charlotte last week, there was a discussion about a college football game marred by a brawl between players from both schools that had to be broken up by police. The conclusion drawn was that there’s no place in college football for that.

So if that’s true – and I think it is – how come there IS a place for fisticuffs in racing? Again, that seems like one standard too many.