Back in April, LPGA golfer Lexi Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty during the ANA Inspiration tournament for replacing her ball in an improper spot during the third round and then signing an incorrect scorecard. She was informed of the penalty on the twelfth hole during the final round and went on to lose in a playoff.
How the LPGA found her infraction? An eagle-eyed television viewer spotted it during the telecast and emailed officials.
As strange as this sounds, this was not the first time this type of thing has happened in golf. Tiger Woods was nearly disqualified from the 2013 Masters for a similar infraction.
But in all my years watching racing, I can’t say I’ve seen it.
After last week’s race at Chicago, some viewers noticed something strange with Chase Elliott’s second-place finishing car and a crew member. The crew member can be seen on the NBC Sports broadcast running his hand along the No. 24’s spoiler seemingly removing a piece of tape before the car went through post-race tech inspection.
And as folks are wont to do these days, they took it to social media — specifically Reddit. The first post in the thread about the sketchy crew member from Redditor ClarksonianPause claimed to have spoken with someone who saw a crew member put the tape on the top edge of the spoiler. Talking with a friend who works for an Xfinity team, I learned this will add between 35 and 40 pounds of downforce to the car.
So, on Tuesday, NASCAR assessed Elliott at 15-point penalty and declared the finish “encumbered.” The points penalty drops Elliott from sixth to eighth in the playoff standings. He currently sits 15 points ahead of the cutoff line to make it to round two of said playoffs.
Honestly, I can’t quite wrap my brain around what I just typed.
Based on all the data NASCAR had at the time everyone packed up on Sunday evening, Elliott’s Chevrolet was heading back to Concord legit. But then some dude posts on the internet that some other dude told him he saw the car being cheated up before the race and there is a dude running his hand along the spoiler to remove tape and NASCAR issues a penalty that may or not be damning to a driver’s championship aspirations.
Now, I’m not going to be naïve about this whole situation, but come on, NASCAR. Was the 24 car modified to give them an advantage? Probably. But the guy could have been wiping a booger on the spoiler.
As a playoff driver, Elliott had one of those green spoilers. I am sure the green was vinyl overlaid on the existing blue spoiler. You know what that vinyl kind of looks like? Tape.
And Elliott had just run 400 miles with 39 other cars all around him at nearly 200 mph. That vinyl may have blown around a bit. These things happen.
So, again, based on what some dude was told by some other dude and a fairly inconclusive video, Elliott gets a hefty(ish) penalty.
NASCAR, this would have been my advice to you in this situation: let it go.
The internet is full of craziness and weird conspiracy theories. This could have been chalked up as that. But no, NASCAR has to go and be all litigious about it and slap Elliott with a penalty.
I’m not trying to sound all sketchy about this, but the whole thing is hella dubious. As I’ve said in this space numerous times: if you ain’t cheating you, you ain’t trying.
Based on everything you do, NASCAR, the 24 team beat you. They did their little tape thing (or didn’t) and they got away with it at the track. Unless the team admitted to it, they got away with it. Just issue a technical bulletin and be vigilant about it the next nine races.
Every article and TV story I saw about the Thompson penalty in golf blasted the LPGA using the word “fiasco” more than once. I think this applies to NASCAR in this case. You can’t go legislating based on TV or some dude on the internet.
Andy Cagle, a former spokesman for Rockingham Speedway and motorsports public relations consultant, writes about NASCARin a weekly column.