Was the Daytona 500 Rigged?

Was the Daytona 500 Rigged?

Monday, 27 February 2017
Mike Harper - SOZ

Social media went crazy after Kurt Busch won the 59th running of the Daytona 500. Surprisingly it wasn’t because angry fans dislike Kurt Busch, but because his sponsor Monster Energy is also the title sponsor for the Cup Series – NASCAR’s elite racing series.

Before I give you a truthful and serious answer to the “rigged” question, allow me to address the following questions from the Daytona 500 weekend;

Did Brian France really lose it during the drivers meeting?

It’s been a tough few weeks for Mr. France. Prior to the Daytona 500 I asked ‘Is NASCAR Scared?’ (click the title to read) questioning Mr. France’s leadership and lack of decision making skills. The next week the Wall Street Journal put out a piece digging deeper into the situation. Bottom line – many within the racing industry have no confidence in Brian France.

During the drivers meeting Brian France stood up and addressed the drivers in what NBC called an “unusual address” where France said in part, “Do not look for NASCAR … when you block somebody out there, and it’s going to happen today. It causes almost all the big incidents. Do not look for NASCAR … you better hope there’s a Good Samaritan behind you who is going to accept that block, because they have that lane and the right to it. And I don’t often make those statements. But I think it’s important today as we go into our most important event to make that really clear with our competitors.”

It truly made no sense and people were frankly puzzled. In my opinion, after all of the bad press this was an attempt by Brian France to take back control of the sport, in which he greatly failed. Do not be surprised if in the next year or two he bows out as the leader of the sport due to medical reasons. His sister Lesa France Kennedy will take the reins and the sport will be healthier for it.

Why would Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske defend Brian France?

A Wall Street Journal’s report on Brian France and NASCAR was scathing so when reporters questioned Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske, both men defended the sport – not necessarily Brian France.  “I think our sport is healthy as ever, and with our sponsors it’s proof of that,” said Gibbs.

As I posted on Facebook during the race – this situation reminds me of American Idol. You know… that family member who sings in front of the judges and is absolutely horrible. But his family will go on national TV and claim he has a wonderful voice, while we all shake our heads watching in disbelief. This is happening in NASCAR with Brian France.

What would anyone expect Gibbs and Penske to say? They’re in a tough position because they cannot slam the sport, the decisions from NASCAR leadership or Brian France – it would devalue their Charters and their teams. Sponsors would be placed in a position of revisiting their agreements and terms. It’s bad for business to shine a light on the current challenges. Honestly, Gibbs and Penske are floating along with the rest of the owners riding out the waves.

Was stage racing successful?

I must applaud NASCAR for their out-of-the-box thinking on stage racing. For me, it’s too early in the season to say it’s a successful program but as we sit here today I have no issue with it. My only complaint is with the massive give-a-way of points. I also do not believe racing for stage wins had anything to do with the number of crashes we saw during the full weekend of racing, especially during the Daytona 500.

What drove me nuts was the overselling of it by the FOX announcers, when racing to the end of each stage – especially at the end of Stage 2. Sorry guys, it wasn’t that dramatic.

Did Larry the Cable Guy really offend Michael Waltrip?

During the grid walk on FOX, Michael Waltrip was asked a question from Larry the Cable Guy – he asked, “Do you have any words of encouragement for the drivers like yourself, who have no chance of winning the Daytona 500?”

I have to admit – it was funny.  I’m not sure Michael Waltrip found the humor in it, even though he played along, but it was a question most in the media wouldn’t have the guts to ask a non-Top 15 driver.

I enjoyed the look on Michael’s face. I also enjoyed the attention given to Michael since it was his last Daytona 500. Congratulations to Michael Waltrip on a good career in NASCAR.

Was the Daytona 500 Rigged?

Conflict of interest in business or sports is something I take very seriously. We expect our leaders to be honest, especially those who hold the public trust.

NASCAR has been able to skirt the conflict of interest topic for way too long – not just NASCAR but those who participate in the sport. Jeff Gordon is a perfect example. He has a shared ownership with Rick Hendrick in the 48 car driven by Jimmie Johnson, while holding a position of influence during a national TV broadcast during the very race his car is participating in.

For NASCAR, the title sponsor of their elite series is also the sponsor of the Daytona 500 winning car. This has conflict of interest written all over it. Anyone – especially any sponsor or team, willing to go head-to-head against NASCAR could challenge them on this topic.

Did Kurt Busch’s car break any rule during the race and never serve a penalty? This question could be asked and while some may not like the question, unfortunately it’s a fair question. NASCAR put themselves in this box by allowing the series sponsor to compete within the same series.  My friends, it’s a conflict of interest. You can look away and pretend it’s not – but it is.

NASCAR or the media cannot blame the fans who wonder if the Daytona 500 was rigged.  To add gas to the fire it didn’t look good when cars leading the race dropped back in the closing laps only to race back towards the front…giving Kurt Busch plenty of distance to win the race.

Was it rigged? I will say…absolutely not.  I don’t believe it. Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 fair and square. NASCAR and Monster Energy did not fix the race – but the conflict of interest will haunt them each and every weekend.


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  1. budreaux says:

    Actually, the race was rigged. However, D. Earnhardt Jr., through no fault of his won, was taken out of the race early on.

    Anyone who thinks he wouldn’t have won his “return from injury” race, is simply fooling themselves.

  2. Bill B says:

    If it was any track but Daytona (or Talladega) I’d be willing to entertain the idea of a fix, but with restrictor plate racing it’s a crapshoot that you could even make it to the end. Flip a coin as to whether driver X will be involved in the big one or not.

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