Plate racing is 'Jersey Shore' on wheels

October, 26, 2011

Whatever it takes, things have to change at Talladega, and Daytona, too, before next season.

That wasn't a race last weekend. It was a "Jersey Shore" episode on wheels. You know, who gets paired with whom, who doesn't, and who gets mad about it.

The tandem games were more like seventh-grade boys arguing over who got picked last for third-period dodgeball.

Absolute petty nonsense.

And now we have a report that Chad Knaus told Jimmie Johnson to deliberately wreck his car if they won the race, per a story Wednesday on

It's Mission Impossible, Dega style -- this tape (or car) will self-destruct in five seconds and we will disavow you if you get caught.

Before the race started, Knaus reportedly told Johnson to damage the back end of the car if they won, just to be safe from any questions by the NASCAR inspectors. He explained his reasoning on Wednesday.

"You run 500 miles at 200 miles per hour, and you're bump-drafting and you're beating on one another," Knaus told the website. "It's real easy for these cars to get outside of tolerance.

"It's a tight tolerance that we're held in. It doesn't take much to be a few thousands [of an inch] off and have NASCAR raise an eyebrow. Just being proactive, I just told Jimmie, 'Look, man -- we've just got to make sure there's a tire mark or some type of visible damage.' The cars do move when you race them like that."

Some of you will believe that explanation, some of you won't.

Frankly, I don't really care. The point is restrictor-plate racing has evolved into something so bizarre that crew chiefs want to deliberately wreck the car when it's over.

And finding a partner to pair up with is starting to look like a scene at a hotel nightclub at 2 a.m.

Jeff Gordon thought Trevor Bayne was going to work with him at the end before a restart. They had a verbal agreement on the radio. But Bayne went with his fellow Ford driver Matt Kenseth and Gordon ended the race all alone moving backward.

Gordon fans were furious with Bayne, as if he has betrayed some sacred trust. The fervor over Bayne's decision even prompted team owner Jack Roush to release a statement Tuesday saying the Ford drivers had no team orders.

Roush had nothing to say about his driver -- Carl Edwards -- coasting in the back for 90 percent of the race to try to avoid trouble and being happy with an 11th-place finish.

I'm not blaming Edwards. He did what he had to do. I'm blaming the format that makes the championship points leader feel his best option is to not even try to race for most of the event.

So this is what plate racing has come to:

• A team owner feeling the need to explain why a driver didn't pair up with a driver who isn't a teammate.

• A crew chief raising eyebrows by telling his driver to wreck the car if he wins.

• Furious fans because their driver got left out in the musical chairs of pairs racing.

• A driver thinking the best way to stay on top in the standings is to play possum and yawn at the back of the field.

All of this must change, even if it means changing the cars so the drivers can't push each other around the track.

I don't know what the answers are, but I know it can't go on like this and be viewed as legitimate racing.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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