I always joke with friends about the “NASCAR Mafia.” Conspiracy theorists do more than joke, but I never really took them too seriously. Then a golden nugget of WTF came across the Web with very little fanfare. Until now.
There are reports that NASCAR officials told Brad Keselowski to take it easy when racing Chase drivers early in the Price Chopper 400. For those who drank too much to remember the race, Keselowski was running in the top five and getting dap from the commentators for his efforts while in patchwork gear. In the end, Keselowski finished 12th, ahead of two Chase drivers. Nine Chase drivers finished in the top ten.
Could you imagine Roger Goodell telling the Detroit Lions to take it easy on the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend because they’re going to the playoffs? Could you imagine Bud Selig telling the Chicago White Sox to take it easy on the Detroit Tigers in the final three games of the season because they’re trying to clinch the division? How can NASCAR officials try to influence the competitive balance of a race and fans just accept it? Cue Herm Edwards.
I’m even more floored that there are writers who think this what NASCAR did was acceptable. Cue Bill Kimm of nascar.com.
"To be fair, Keselowski isn’t David Ragan in 2006, Juan Montoya in 2006 or Sam Hornish Jr. in 2007. He’s made his fair share of Cup starts and has a win at Talladega to show for it. But in NASCAR’s postseason, I believe only full-time teams should be on the track. The Chase is not the time for drivers to get acquainted with the Cup Series, there is simply too much on the line. Twelve teams are racing for the championship — and that shouldn’t be derailed by some young guy with nothing to lose."
If NASCAR wants the Chase to really have a playoff atmosphere, I’m content with only allowing Chase drivers on the track the final ten races of the season. I’m OK with the PGA’s format of having a large playoff field, then reducing the field each week until you get to the Tour Championship. But if you allow 43 cars to start a race, your officials have an ethical obligation to allow all 43 cars a chance to win that race. Keselowski used aggressive driving to win at Talladega in a moment the sport has promoted like mad. Now they want him to take it easy. How can you grow a sport when the sport offers such inconsistency? Fans want to see racing, not offers drivers can’t refuse.
I know there’s nothing funny about this column other than my alarming level of rage. So, I leave you with this. Brad Keselowski is like cowbell. We need more of it. Enjoy.
Head2Head: Is it OK to tell non-Chasers to back off? (NASCAR)
Why your driver will lose the Chase