COLUMN: Hendrick plays the encore
Appeal may be just buying time
Reviewing the events of Tuesday made me think of encores.
The metaphor is flawed. The appeal of Hendrick Motorsports just reminded me of one.
Once upon a time, a band played a show to an appreciative crowd and, after being deeply moved by the level of support, returned to the stage to play more songs. Over time, the encore became an entitlement. Nowadays crowds actually get angry if there is no encore at every single show they attend. A band could play a two-hour set on a Tuesday night to an apathetic audience of seven, and it would return for an encore.
Of course, the panel of three (selected from a supposed pool of 45) listens to the appeal. Everyone gets to say his (or her) peace. Then the panel does what NASCAR wants it to do.
It doesn’t take a conspiracy. Everyone who participates in the appeals process has had a longtime, profitable relationship with the ruling body. NASCAR wants its appeals to be heard by insiders, and one “appealing” reason is that insiders are beholden at best and sympathetic at least. The Appeals Panel has many impressive names, but most of them are there in name only. It’s unlikely that Janet Guthrie, Hurley Haywood, Bill Lester, Steve Page or Lyn St. James is going to fly to Charlotte to sit in judgment of whether or not a Camping World Truck Series team used an “unapproved” jacking bolt.
Rick Hendrick appealed the harsh penalties dealt his team. Losing Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief (Chad Knaus) and car chief (Ron Malec) for six weeks is a tough pill to swallow. In some sense, Hendrick is probably using the appeal process to buy some time. The celebrated “C Post” violation occurred before the Daytona 500. The fourth race comes up at Bristol Sunday, and Johnson and Malec will still be with the team because their suspensions are under appeal. By the time the appeal is put to bed, Johnson’s team will be more ready to adapt.
When Hendrick appeared in front of the cameras, he announced that he would further appeal the penalties to the highest level of the NASCAR “judiciary.” He did so very politely. No one on CourtTV is ever that gracious. He said he was grateful that NASCAR gave the sport a process of appeal at all.
It was just so considerate of them.
Maybe John Middlebrook, the Chief Appellate Officer, will reduce the suspensions from six to four, but I doubt it.
I think when Hendrick came out of the NASCAR Research and Development Center, it was just an encore.
Monte Dutton; 704-869-1841; twitter.com/montedutton