I used to be a big fan of NASCAR. A BIG fan; but not so since their push towards mega-marketing. But I still follow the news, and occasionally flip to the race on Sundays if I’m not preoccupied. One story, though, that caught my attention today was an AP wire story claiming that a conspiracy has erupted in the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. camp.
You see, Dale Jr., the son of the late racing legend of the same name, is leaving the team that his father started (and which is now run by his step-mother, Teresa). The split is less than amicable, and reports are that the two haven’t spoken since last December. The controversy is over whether or not Theresa sabotaged Junior’s cars in a few races this year by ordering his crew to install sub-standard engines, and thereby keep him from contending for the NASCAR championship.
I find those claims to be ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as another controversy that arose years back after Dale Sr. died in a wreck at the end of the 2001 Daytona 500. This controversy (unsubstantiated, of course) had to do with NASCAR “fixing” races at the superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona) in order to give Junior wins and please the legion of Earnhardt fans and the legacy of his father, who dominated at those tracks.
How could NASCAR “fix” races, you ask? Simple; at superspeedways (2.5 mile tri-ovals), the cars are equipped with restrictor plates. These plates are placed over the carburetors, and restrict the air flow that goes into the engine, thereby decreasing the air/fuel/combustion mix and limiting the speeds at which the cars travel. NASCAR manufactures and distributes the plates before the races, so the conspiracy was that the governing body “gave” Junior restrictor plates with larger openings, which would give him the extra horsepower necessary to get out and stay out in front. The claims were never founded, and the controversy died down.
Controversy always makes for good NASCAR news; from the days of the bootleggers outrunning the revenuers in rural North Carolina to the multi-billion dollar mega-corporations that operate in the sport today. Count on a good conspiracy theory to keep this “fan on the bubble” interested.