NASCAR Penalties: Death Sentence To Small Teams

Jim CrooksCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

DARLINGTON, SC - MAY 09:  Robby Gordon, driver of the #7 Robby Gordon Motorsport Toyota, stands near his car before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Southern 500 on May 9, 2009 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeremy Mayfield, Carl Long, and Robby Gordon.

All of these drivers have been given penalties that hurt. In Long and Mayfield's cases, it could be debilitating. They might not race again this year, or forever, possibly.

Is that what NASCAR is looking for?  

Mayfield has been tested positive for an as yet unknown substance.

Long's dead engine was found to be .17 of a cubic inch outside boundaries.

Gordon apparently had the gall to be "found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4I (any determination by NASCAR Officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-10.6H (rear axle housing exceeded the maximum specified toe of plus or minus one degree) of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book." (

NASCAR is all about the little teams, aren't they? That was the impression I got.

In the case of Long, he bought an engine and had used it for several qualifying attempts.  

When the engine over heated, he had it pulled, and NASCAR decided it was a "big" engine, because instead of the 358 cubic inches allowed, it turned out to be 358.17 cubic inches.  

This was an engine that had over heated. Things, like metal, tend to expand under heat. It was the bore of the engine, in other words the diameter of the cylinders that was one one-thousands of an inch out of spec.

That's all NASCAR needs though.  

A big team would have brought fresh engines to the track, but a team like Long's brings what it can.  

A fine of $200,000 is pretty much a death sentence to this team. Long put about $16,000 into the car to get it ready for the Sprint Showdown, and now he's being penalized $200,000?

NASCAR is going to show me they're willing to help the small teams when they start actually making it easier for the little guy to survive.  

I understand that rules are rules, I'm confident that none of these drivers or their teams deliberately tried to beat the system.  

If these guys were tearing up the field week after week, and it was found that they were consistently using big engines or out of spec real axle housings, that would be one thing, but a one time violation bringing such serious penalties seems a bit much.

For the big teams, the financial penalties are rather insignificant. For the small teams, they can be a death sentence.