NASCAR's unfair approach

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

NASCAR Sprint Cup officials impounded the No. 48 and No. 5 Chevrolets of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin respectively after the Pepsi 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

It was the third race in a row the two teams have found themselves under the microscope of NASCAR's technical inspectors.

The first time -- after the Dover race -- those officials came back to say that measurements on the cars were within the legal limits set by NASCAR -- but -- both were close to the edge.

The question here is: So what?

That NASCAR took the same two teams' cars the second time after Kansas and came up with the same result should have been enough to convince everyone that the HMS cars were legal, twice and for all.

To grab the cars again this past week at Fontana reeks of intimidation.

The first thing NASCAR fans should know is that after every Sprint Cup race the teams that don't win line up at the big yellow trailer complaining that the team that did win somehow must have cheated (because they all do, so the winner must have cheated better).

Also, NASCAR knows they all cheat but can't admit that because even with their multimillion-dollar research and development centre in Concord, N.C., they can't catch them.

So they do the only thing they can do and that is label the suspect teams as cheaters without every finding anything wrong with the cars.

There is something fundamentally unfair with this approach.

If NASCAR bosses think it is bad for the sport that Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will win a fourth consecutive championship, then change the way the title is decided.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that six of the final 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship are at tracks where Johnson and Knaus -- and now Martin and his crew chief Alan Gustafson -- are head and shoulders better than the rest of the field.

What needs to happen is for the rest of the grid to catch up. It's called competition.

And it should be applauded, not punished.

Racing to oblivion

IndyCar racing is headed in the same direction the National Hockey League is in the U.S. -- oblivion. That would be the place where all pro sports that have television contracts with the Versus network go to play.

In what should have been a showcase for open wheel racing in North America last week, Dario Franchitti won a 100% green flag 300-mile race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to claim the 2009 driver's championship.

It certainly was a compelling story with the native of Bathgate, Scotland, winning his second crown in three years after taking a year off to try his hand at NASCAR racing.

The race had everything but an audience and it pointed out that IndyCar racing is in real trouble if it doesn't soon find a way to get back on the sporting world's radar.

One way would be to get a title sponsor -- not an easy task in the current economic environment.

The other way is to find a replacement for Tony George to run the series. After getting the bum's rush from his mother and three sisters -- who control Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar racing -- the series lacks leadership that is needed to provide stability and vision the sport desperately needs.

The only good news on the horizon appears to be that Gil de Ferran appears close to putting together a two-car team for 2010.

At the rate other teams are going bust, though, de Ferran may be playing the part of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke.

Schumacher picks Vettel

Seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher contends that fellow German Sebastian Vettel can win the crown this season.

Schumacher said that the two remaining races -- Brazil this week and then Abu Dhabi in November-- are enough for Vettel to make up the 16-point gap between him and Jenson Button.

"Mathematically everything is still possible, and I will keep my fingers crossed for him," Schumacher said on his website this week.

Finish lines

Richard Petty Motorsports could field a Ford Fusion for A.J. Allmendinger before the end of the current NASCAR Sprint Cup season. FoxSports reported this week the team has had at least one Ford ready to race since the start of the 10-race Chase for the Championship began at New Hampshire ... F-1 boss Bernie Ecclestone now is suggesting that Donnington Park's bid to host the British Grand Prix in 2010 is in serious jeopardy ... Felipe Massa says he is the same driver he was before his dramatic accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix after testing a 2007 Ferrari earlier this week. Massa has been sidelined from F-1 since he fractured his skull in Hungary.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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