All right, NASCAR fans. Time for what our grandparents used to call a come-to-Jesus moment.
Clint Bowyer has been nailed with penalties that have, for all intents and purposes, demolished his Chase hopes. Maybe he and the No. 33 team cheated in their setup of the car, and maybe they didn't. The end result is the same; it's only a question of whether you feel bad for Bowyer or not.
Oh, but that hasn't stopped a very loud segment of the NASCAR fanbase from screaming that Bowyer's penalty is definitive proof that NASCAR is fixed, that the Chase stinks, that NASCAR wants Jimmie Johnson to win a fifth title, that nothing about this sport has ever been the same since they stopped driving on sand.
There's a state of mind called "confirmational bias," and it envelops a segment of NASCAR fandom like kudzu. Confirmational bias is basically this: You have an established mindset, and you give weight to everything that confirms that mindset and dismiss everything that runs counter to it.
So if you think that NASCAR is rigged and Jimmie Johnson is a cheater who's allowed to prosper by NASCAR, if you think the Chase is a horrible abomination with no possible good qualities, no amount of facts are going to shake your mind. Jimmie Johnson loses a race? That's because they don't want it to look suspicious! The drivers themselves say they're fine with the Chase as long as everyone runs under the same rules? They have to say that or they'll be forced out of the sport! The media speaks positively of Johnson, or doesn't buy into the "NASCAR is worse than it's ever been" nonsense? How much is NASCAR paying you, Busbee? Jimmie Johnson actually wins a race? SEE? See what we've been saying? It's all true!
Look, I get the desire to hang onto the past. I really do. When I was a wee lad, somebody pressed a copy of Van Halen I into my hands -- no, not in the crib; I'm not that young -- and imprinted me with a fanatical devotion to Eddie Van Halen that lasts to this very day. I still listen to and love new music, but The Hold Steady and Mastodon still don't match up, in my mind, to "Unchained" or "Eruption."
But here's the thing. As good as that old Van Halen stuff is, it's also horribly dated. I love listening to it now and then, but not to the exclusion of anything new. That kind of myopia stunts your brain and makes you miss out on what's happening now, which can be as good as the old days and maybe, possibly, even better.
The Chase is here. It's not a perfect system, but absolutely no system that has to meet all the many needs of 21st-century NASCAR -- fan-friendly, driver-friendly, sponsor-friendly -- could be. NASCAR has some huge flaws, but focusing only on those blinds you to the very good racing still happening almost every week on the track.
NASCAR is different from when you first became a fan. Maybe it's better, maybe it's worse. But it's different. Deal with that. Find the good that's there, and if you can't do that, hit the bricks. No need to keep telling the rest of us how upset you are. We get it.
Either buck up and recognize that times have changed, or move on down the road. We've got nine races in a wide-open Chase to run, and I can't wait to see how it plays out.