Making sense of nonsense

OK, so let’s get this straight: Carl Edwards keeps his victory in Sunday’s UAW-Dodge 400, but when the Chase for the Sprint Cup rolls around he won’t get credit for that win?

This makes no sense.

Is it a win or isn’t it?

On a day that witnessed the resolution of one contentious situation – Robby Gordon being exonerated for having the wrong nose on his car at Daytona – NASCAR handed down another penalty that only further muddied an already murky body of water.

As a result of finding the oil lid “off” in Edwards’ car following Sunday’s race, NASCAR docked Edwards 100 points, which is too light. They fined and suspended his crew chief for six races, which was predictable. But then NASCAR added this little caveat: If Edwards makes the Chase, which he will, he won’t get the 10-point bonus for this win.

In case you didn’t know, one of NASCAR’s newer rules is that drivers who qualify for the Chase receive a 10-point bonus for each regular-season win … except in this case – where a win isn’t necessarily a win.

“Well, it is a win,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. “He got credit for the win. It’s just that the penalty also included the loss of the 10 bonus points in the (Chase) seeding process.”

Will this hurt Edwards, who was leading the points standings before the 100-point penalty dropped him to seventh? Sure. Does it make any sense? Not at all.

Despite the defense made by Geoff Smith, president of Roush Fenway Racing, that a bolt on Edwards’ car “failed in its purpose,” it’s hard to believe what happened Sunday wasn’t intentional.

“Those things are bolted down,” said Todd Berrier, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, meaning they don’t just pop “off” on their own.

Though Berrier acknowledged the infraction isn’t why Edwards won Sunday’s race – “Overall, his car was that much better,” Berrier said – there’s no argument that having the oil lid off creates more down force – possibly as much as 100 pounds – which provides an aerodynamic advantage.

NASCAR knows this because they have Edwards’ car in their possession and they’ve tested it.

So if they know this, and others acknowledge it, why wasn’t Edwards stripped of the win?

Well, because NASCAR doesn’t do that.

The last time NASCAR took away a Cup win from a driver for failing post-race inspection is believed to be 1955. I say believed because it’s been so long, no one knows for sure. This in a sport where the old adage is, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

I get why NASCAR doesn’t make a habit of stripping away wins. It’s not good business to wave the checkered flag from a boardroom on a Wednesday.

But in this case, how can they not?

By disallowing the 10-point bonus normally awarded for all pre-Chase victories, NASCAR is all but acknowledging there was something illegitimate about the win. Yet they’re not taking it away?

One doesn’t mesh with the other.

This isn’t the first time crew chiefs have attempted to create openings in cars to generate more down force. In fact, following the Nationwide race at Daytona just three weeks ago, five teams were penalized for the same infraction, though three of those penalties since have been rescinded or reduced.

“One hundred points at this point in season doesn’t mean anything, especially for a team that good,” Berrier said.

Berrier, known for bending the rules, said NASCAR needs to start taking away wins.

“That’s the only way this kind of stuff will stop, but I hope it never happens.”

At some point, it will. In the meantime, NASCAR has left us to wonder if a win really is a win.

Jay Hart is a Senior Editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jay a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Mar 5, 2008