NASCAR Cheats the Fans and the Field

Jonathan KarlenContributor IFebruary 16, 2009

I preface this by saying that I have never been a huge fan of auto racing.  Still, I've always known how big the Daytona 500 is to the racing world. 

So, after a week of hearing everyone on sports radio and various sports Web sites hype up the event as "The Super Bowl of Racing," I found my interest piqued when I walked into my in-laws' home Sunday and it was on. 

I grabbed a soda and hit the sofa to try, as I have in the past, to figure out what the millions of people who live and breathe this sport see. 

It's an endeavor I also partake in every four years, when the World Cup is played. 

I am an avid fan of all things sports, so I figure that any sport that millions of people devote themselves to must have something that I am missing.  After yesterday, however, I have to conclude that I'm wrong.

NASCAR is a farce.

Yesterday's race, "The Super Bowl of Racing," was stopped after 152 of 200 scheduled laps had been completed.  Roughly speaking, that's the same as eliminating the final quarter of the competition.  In doing so, NASCAR handed Matt Kenseth a completely irrelevant Daytona 500 victory that has an asterisk the size of Barry Bonds' head next to it. 

For Kenseth to even acknowledge a "victory," let alone celebrate it as if it were legitimate, is a disgrace to himself, to NASCAR, and to all those who cherish competition.  A sincere competitor would have refused to even show up at victory lane.  A true sport would not have declared a winner but, instead, said "See y'all Monday."

The comparison between the Daytona 500 and the Super Bowl falls flat. 

Could you imagine a Super Bowl being stopped after the third quarter and the current leader being showered with confetti and handed the Lombardi Trophy?  It wouldn't happen.  The NFL knows the stain that would cause. 

The Super Bowl played two weeks before this tainted race would have had the same winner had it been stopped after the third quarter, but the world of sports would have been cheated out of one of the great final frames in Super Bowl history.  The 2008 Super Bowl would have had a different winner if the game had been stopped after three quarters, as would many others. 

Drama and excitement in sports come in the final acts of the competition. 

Faced with the possibility of a rain-shortened game deciding the World Series last October, Bud Selig said, after the fact (and after it became a moot point), that he wouldn't have allowed it. 

No fan of baseball considers Bud Selig a courageous decision maker, but that would have been a courageous decision had it been necessary.  That kind of courage would have been admirable on the part of NASCAR last night. 

But instead, 29 drivers got cheated, as did millions of fans, including one I know personally who must have spent a mint to travel to Daytona and sit at the finish line. 

Sadly for her, and for the sport, there was no finish line.