NASCAR deserves slap for decision at Fontana


When a driver runs afoul of NASCAR's laws, he is summoned to its rolling traffic court parked in the infield where one-sided justice often is handed down.

When Casey Mears arrives at Las Vegas Motor Speedway today for Sprint Cup qualifying and practice, he should order NASCAR officials to his hauler and give them a dose of their judicial medicine.

Mears could have been killed or seriously injured after NASCAR allowed racing to resume Sunday at the rain-plagued event in Fontana, Calif. On the 22nd lap, Mears drove over water on the track and slid into the outside guardwall before his car was turned on its side when hit by another driver, whose car burst into flames.

Fortunately, neither driver was injured.

Starting the race after a 21/2-hour delay on a partially wet track that contributed to a frightening crash could have been a deadly error in judgment by race officials.

Mears' life -- and that of Denny Hamlin, who crashed six laps before him -- was put into jeopardy after drivers were told to race with water seeping through a crack in the track and at least one other wet spot on the 2-mile oval.

Hamlin even warned of wet spots after his incident and predicted another crash would follow.

NASCAR's action last weekend, using its terminology, was in violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing).

Auto Club Speedway -- formerly California Speedway -- or NASCAR should reimburse Mears' Hendrick Motorsports team for its mangled Chevy; Mears and Hamlin should be awarded bonus points to compensate for those they potentially lost by finishing the race in two of the last three positions.

NASCAR, whose two-way radios must have been waterlogged, should be punished more severely than driver Robby Gordon was for showing up at preinspection for the Daytona 500 with a front-nose piece that NASCAR had yet to approve. Gordon is appealing the $100,000 fine and loss of 100 critical points in the series standings that dropped him from eighth to 40th after Daytona.

What's more detrimental to stock car racing: NASCAR allowing the race to continue on a track with wet spots and a dangerous track condition? Or what Gordon did?

That answer is clear.

It seemed a matter of time until NASCAR could fabricate an excuse during Sunday's late five-hour stoppage to pull the plug. Officials claimed cold air and high humidity made it impossible for the track to be dried and postponed the race at 11 p.m. But it had been cold and damp hours before that.

Loyal fans were left in limbo before being tantalized about 10 p.m. when NASCAR ordered teams to begin preparing cars on pit road as if there was going to be a race.

Masterminds at the newly named Auto Club Speedway haven't been able to sell each of its 92,000 seats for either of its two annual Cup races, and now they're doomed.

It was about 115 degrees for the last Labor Day race, and now this virtual rainout makes it even less likely anyone with a brain will buy tickets in advance. Attendance for races a year after a weather problem usually suffers.

NASCAR, which is owned by the France family, needs only one race in Fontana. It should ignore its symbiotic relationship with France-controlled International Speedway Corp. and partner with Las Vegas Motor Speedway owner Speedway Motorsports Inc., to move one of those races from Southern California to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas wants a second race, and its record of six consecutive sellouts makes it worthy, along with the area being more appealing to fans, sponsors and teams.

Bruton Smith, SMI founder and chairman, scoffs at the idea of becoming a partner with ISC on a race weekend, even though the publicly held entities jointly began last year to operate souvenir retailer Motorsports Authentics.

It's time to do what's best for stock car racing, and that's not having thousands of empty seats at a Cup track in the country's second-biggest market.

Actions detrimental to stock car racing should not be limited to drivers and crew chiefs.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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