NASCAR appeals seem fairer than NFL's

April, 6, 2012

NASCAR's much-maligned penalties and appeals process looks pretty good, believe it or not, compared to the NFL.

NASCAR took a beating (in the outcome and in the court of public opinion) after most of the whopping penalties on the No. 48 Chevy were reversed on the final appeal two weeks ago.

The six-week suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec (over illegal C-posts on the car) were lifted. The 25 points docked from Jimmie Johnson were reinstated. Only the $100,000 fine was upheld.

Whether justice was done in the end differs depending on whom you ask, but at least the appeal wasn't heard by NASCAR president Mike Helton.

That's basically what's happening with the appeal by the New Orleans Saints. It was heard Thursday by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the man who suspended coach Sean Payton for one year (along with other team penalties) over the bounty system the team had to purposely injure opposing players.

Maybe Goodell will reduce the penalties; maybe he won't. Don't get me wrong, I think all the penalties imposed by Goodell were justified, but he shouldn't be the person hearing an appeal.

The defendant in NASCAR doesn't make his case to Helton or competition vice president Robin Pemberton or Sprint Cup director John Darby.

"I think that whole thing [the No. 48 penalties being overturned] vindicated NASCAR," said Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. "It took the wind out of everyone's sails who said the fix was in."

NASCAR's process has some flaws, like the one-man final appellate judge (John Middlebrook) being a good friend of Rick Hendrick, the man making the appeal. But NASCAR's system of justice certainly appears to be a much fairer way of doing it than what the NFL does.

"I don't know if the NFL system is unfair,'' Gossage said. "But I know competitors in NASCAR have someplace else to go [with an appeal] beyond NASCAR."

I applaud Speedway Motorsports Inc. honcho Bruton Smith for his willingness to spend his money to try to give the fans what they want at Bristol. But before he tears up the track, he might want to take this into consideration: The 2013 Cup car is going to be a lot different from the one now.

The new car still will have the Car of Tomorrow chassis, but the body for all four manufacturers will have a dramatic new design to try to make the cars look more like the production models.

It's a great idea, a back-to-the-future concept to make the race cars resemble real cars again. Ford and Dodge already had unveiling ceremonies that were well-received by fans. Chevy and Toyota will show their 2013 cars later this season.

The new look means the cars will react differently from an aerodynamic standpoint. So whatever changes Smith makes at Bristol might work well to bring more bumping and banging with the 2012 car, but not so much with the 2013 car, or vice versa.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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