With teams searching for the...
With teams searching for the slightest advantage, Humpy Wheeler says "micro-cheating" exists in the sport. "You can't sneak the big things past anymore," he says. Sam Sharpe
So you can see there is more opportunity to tweak the rules in racing than there may be in other sports. Dunnaway did it way back in the day, and Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's crewchief, did it at Daytona this year. The biggest difference may be NASCAR's reaction to the infractions. In 1949, Dunnaway had the win stripped away, but there is no record of any other punishment. In 2006, NASCAR caught the No. 48 car's illegal track bar in post-qualifying inspection. The illegal equipment wasn't even in an actual race, yet Knaus was escorted from the Daytona property and told not to come back for the remainder of the Speedweeks' events, fined $25,000, suspended for the next three Nextel Cup races, and put on probation through December 31, 2006.
NASCAR is now a corporate-driven sport, much more concerned about its image than it was in 1949 when it simply hoped to have enough cars show up to put on a good race. Today, the specter of cheating in the sport simply isn't tolerated.
Despite the penalties against Knaus, it really hasn't slowed the parade of infractions NASCAR's tech officials catch at just about every race. Since that incident, Rodney Childers, crewchief for Scott Riggs' No. 10 Dodge, was fined $10,000 for improperly attached weight; Larry Hyder, crewchief for Ken Schrader's No. 21 Ford, was fined $1,000 for an unapproved side window; and Hall of Fame Racing, a brand new team, lost its appeal of a $25,000 fine and loss of 25 points for an unapproved carburetor. By the time you read this, there will probably be more examples.
Is it Really Cheating?
The biggest question is this: Do the examples we listed-modified side windows, tricked-out carburetors and even fancy moving rear windows-constitute cheating? After all, we aren't talking about thrown games here, or steroids, or even stealing signals. We're talking about modifying a hand-built race car in a manner that often isn't specifically covered by the rules. That's why NASCAR so often has to cover infractions with the "actions detrimental to the sport" blanket.
"The word 'cheating' I think is a little over-the-top," says former crewchief and current Fox commentator Larry McReynolds. "If somebody gets caught with a big engine or soaking their tires, something as big as that, maybe that's cheating. But a lot of what is going on now is little stuff that's not breaking the rules as much as it is pushing into the gray areas. I see it more like a football player on the field who gets caught holding or making an illegal block. It's against the rules and he gets a penalty, but it's not cheating. Same thing here. A team tries something, gets caught in inspection, gets a penalty, and everybody moves on."