Inconsistencies in NASCAR have prompted paranoia among fans and as a result, a broadcasting error on Saturday night led to accusations of bias and cheating.
If rules within the sport were not so frequently altered in the past, fans probably wouldn’t have been so easily convinced they’d been duped by NASCAR. As it is, while Jimmie Johnson celebrated his fourth million dollar win of the Sprint Cup All Star Race, questions were raised concerning its validity.
The Speed Channel, which aired the race, displayed the drivers’ average finishes before the start of mandatory pit stops that followed the fourth racing segment. However, the graphics were filled with incorrect information. In fact, it didn’t even have Johnson listed in the Top 10.
So as Johnson headed down pit road in fourth place, social media lit up with angry fans who felt that Johnson had somehow cheated the system.
Those proclamations made their way into the grand stands of Charlotte Motor Speedway and when Johnson broke away from the pack during the final 10 laps, spectators began to head toward the exits.
The arguments over the average finish calculations raged well into the night, along with a separate issue concerning the race format.
In years past, had two drivers dominated the All Star Race the way that Kyle and Kurt Busch did on Saturday, they would have been rewarded with a front row starting position on the re-start of the final 10 laps. This year though, the format was modified to include a mandatory four tire pit stop prior to the final dash. The average finish times from the first four segments dictated how the drivers entered pit road. How they exited was determined by how quickly their crew got them back on the field following the tire changes.
For winning two segments each, the Busch brothers were given a first and second place entrance onto pit road with Kasey Kahne, Johnson and Joey Logano behind them.
Johnson’s pit crew logged an 11-second stop to put their driver on the front row for the final re-start, alongside Kahne.
Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch, who had led 58 of the race’s 90 laps, lined up in fifth and third respectively. Ten laps wouldn’t be enough for either Busch to track down the five-time Sprint Cup Champion. Kahne ran side-by-side with Johnson for three laps before being left in the rear view and eventually passed by Logano and Kyle Busch.
Kurt Busch finished the race the way he exited the final pit stop, in fifth place.
“For our part, we were in the mix and won the overall average finish,” he said. “That gets you the first spot entering pit road but not the first spot on the restart. I’m not down on my (pit crew) but we came out fifth and were a little tight in traffic and just didn’t get it right on our changes.”
As for those conspiracy theories regarding Johnson’s win, he wasn’t bothered by them on Saturday.
“People just want to hate, and that fine,” he said. “I’m just lucky. NASCAR rigs the races … but I’m going home with a cool trophy and a big check, and we all really know what happened.”
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned, anyway. The word of the day is day is ‘consistency.’ If assumptions were made prematurely, then NASCAR should ask itself why.
They said it:
“Everyone knew we were here tonight.”
— Kurt Busch on winning two segments and contending for an overall win.
“Been a rough few weeks for the 2 crew.”
— Reigning Cup champ Brad Keselowski said in a Twitter post. He completed only two laps because of a transmission problem on his Miller Lite Ford. He finished 32nd at Darlington last week and 33rd at Richmond three weeks ago.
“I am so fortunate to have all you great fans that voted me into the All-Star race. Thank you. I really wish I could of made you more proud.”
— Danica Patrick on Twitter after the race. She finished 20th of 22 cars.