Instead of continuing to own that screwup Monday, NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller gave a thoroughly terrible explanation of why Harvick wasn’t penalized.
Miller said on SiriusXM NASCAR radio that it was “debatable” whether or not Harvick’s team should have been penalized and a “close call.” Harvick’s team was not penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation on their final green-flag pit stop of the day despite clearly violating NASCAR’s tire control rules.
NASCAR’s rulebook states that a tire has to meet three benchmarks to be considered “controlled.” The first benchmark is “a crew member must remain within arm’s reach and moving in the same direction as the tire/wheel when removing the tire/wheel fro the outside half of the pit box.”
While “arm’s reach” is a pretty subjective form of measurement, take a look at Harvick’s pit stop and judge for yourself whether or not the right rear tire was within an arm’s reach at all times after it was taken off the car.
It’s pretty straightforward that it isn’t, right?
Any rational person would say Harvick’s tire isn’t within an arm’s reach. Yet Miller got extremely wishy-washy when asked about the penalty Monday and made NASCAR’s rule look even more subjective than it is.
“There’s judgment in those calls with the uncontrolled tire,” Miller said. “And in our guys’ judgment, the tires that were called got away from the guy further than these did.
“In retrospect looking at it, I think that certainly the penalty could have been called because probably it has to be within arm’s reach of a guy as he’s trying to control that tire and it’s debatable whether or not this one got more than an arm’s reach away. Close call.”
.@NASCAR Senior VP of Competition, Scott Miller, explains why there was not a penalty called for an uncontrolled tire for the #4 team yesterday at @TXMotorSpeedway #TMDNASCAR pic.twitter.com/WrAm4bZsdy
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) April 9, 2018
How is there anything debatable or close when trying to determine whether or not this tire is within arm’s reach of Harvick’s tire carrier?
NASCAR earned some credit by so quickly admitting it messed up after Harvick finished second to Kyle Busch. But whatever credit it earned for being forthcoming about its mistake was washed away with Miller’s explanation on Monday. There’s a difference between explaining and defending the thought process of a decision and insulting the intelligence of your observers. Miller’s comments drift dangerously towards the latter category.
NASCAR should never have gotten the call wrong in the first place. But officiating mistakes happen in all sports and sometimes they affect the outcome of an event. Had Harvick passed Busch for the win in the waning laps on Sunday, NASCAR would have an even bigger mess on its hands.
Given Miller’s explanation of the missed call following Harvick’s second-place finish, we cringe at the thought of the potential logical pretzels NASCAR officials would have contorted themselves into to defend the call with Harvick in possession of the winner’s trophy.
Thankfully for NASCAR — and the sanity of NASCAR fans everywhere — Harvick’s not the race winner. But Miller’s comments aren’t doing much for the sport’s credibility. And credibility is vital when it comes to rules that aren’t clear-cut.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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