As a fan of NASCAR, I watched the ending of this year’s regular season at Richmond, Va., which set the top qualifiers up for The Chase, erupt in controversy. Adding more pins and needles, my favorite driver, Jeff Gordon, was left just one point shy of making The Chase. Anyone following the week’s aftermath of controversy knows that because of a less-than-ethical split-second decision to help a teammate make his way into The Chase, the overall outcome of the championship field was put at stake, and by doing so allowed NASCAR’s reputation to be questioned.
There will always be those times when someone on a team needs to make a split-second decision, and because the desire to win is elevated, sometimes the decisions don’t turn out exactly the way we had hoped. But that’s the way it is in racing, and the truth is it’s that same desire that makes auto racing so exciting. Do I make the diving pass now? Do I stop for fuel, or hope for a yellow? Should I lift or floor it? Folks, auto racing is nothing but split-second decisions. Some split-second decisions win races while others keep teams from achieving their goal. These make-or-break moments will continue to be part of auto racing, so it’s paramount to the integrity of our sport that high ethics are the cornerstone set forth to ensure a level playing field for all competitors.
It’s not easy to make calls without experience, and everybody involved with helping create and enforce NASA’s rules came from an active racing involvement. Helping create a level playing field for all competitors is not an easy task and one that requires the need to understand, appreciate and respect how some split-second decisions come to be.
I recall a day on the Rogue River in Oregon in which I had the pleasure of fishing with the local game warden for an afternoon. I asked him how it came to be that he was elected game warden in such a highly sought-after territory.
He said, “Well, Gary, it’s like this … there had been a lot of concern by the locals as well as other government agencies involved, and they were frustrated that there was far too much illegal activity with respect to the local sport fishing. They were concerned not only about the future of quality sport fishing, but also the need to create a place where everyone could come and enjoy the love and respect that everyone expects of such an amazing place and sport.”
I felt a great respect for a man of such compassion for the office and responsibilities he held. When I asked what best suited him for such responsibilities, his reply almost knocked me off the rock I was sitting on. “That’s simple,” he said. “Having grown up here on The Rogue as a youngster, I had broken just about every law with regards to fishing there was. If there’s anyone best suited to catch an outlaw, who better than someone who had been there and done that?”
Not all race car drivers are outlaws, but someone will always have to write and enforce the rules, then the integrity of the sport will find a level playing field for all. In an interview, Jeff Gordon said, “We have a strong desire and we are fierce competitors who will try to win a race, to battle, and to help their team win.”
In the end, Jeff Gordon will be joining The Chase due to NASCAR’s desire not to allow its integrity to be questioned. I am proud to report it’s those same ethics that NASA chooses, thus making it the finest grassroots auto racing organization found in America today.