"We are not cheating," team owner Bill Davis flatly states. "Our sponsors are pretty critical of cheating. They consider it stealing, and we are trying to stay within the rules. The bigger sponsors that are capable of spending the money to be a part of the sport are very image conscious and aware that you are representing them. Sponsors are not interested in getting their name smeared around.

"We joke about it, but really, in my opinion, there is very little cheating going on. The days of hydraulic spoilers and dumping hundreds of pounds of lead out of a car to gain a really big advantage are gone. Any advantage gained is small and short-lived. I'm pretty comfortable with the fact there is very little cheating."

There is a fine line that racers dance around when they talk about cheating. When Davis says very few teams are cheating in Nextel Cup, he means flagrant violations that will be reprimanded with fines and potentially cost the team championship points. Others slap the label "cheating" on what many in racing call "pushing the gray areas." By that they mean exploiting loopholes in the rules or simply finding advantages on parts of the car that aren't covered by the rules. It's a time-honored tradition in NASCAR. The trick is to push the limits just enough so that when you do get caught, NASCAR's response is to update the rule book and not come down as hard on you as it did on Knaus at Daytona.

"That's just the way it is," says McReynolds. "You show me a top-notch team with a top-notch crewchief that isn't pushing the rules as hard and as far as they can, and I will show you a team that probably isn't going to be a contender at the end of the season."

Racing on Saturday Nights
Of course, NASCAR Nextel Cup racing is just the tip of the iceberg. Every week many thousands of racers compete at thousands of smaller racetracks throughout the country. Cheating is an issue here, too, but it poses an entirely new set of challenges to racers and sanctioning bodies.

Unlike Nextel Cup, racing on Saturday nights-whether it be Mini Stocks or Super Late Models-is often a money-losing proposition. Racers almost always spend much more than they will take in from sponsors and prize winnings. Racers at this level compete for the love of the sport, not to make a buck.

Track operators often find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to cheaters. Providing fans with a good car count is the lifeblood of a track, and few can afford to run off cheaters. A track operator has to run a fair show or else the non-cheating racers will abandon his facility. He also cannot afford to come down too hard on cheaters because they may go to another track, or even become frustrated with racing altogether and simply take up golf or some other diversion.