Nov 5, 2007
NASCAR doesn't like water. It doesn't race in the rain and it tries to avoid having water on its racetracks. And it really doesn't want to find water in the fuel tanks of its Nextel Cup series cars, especially on race day, but that's exactly what happened in Atlanta. Water was initially found in the tanks of the racecars driven by Dave Blaney and Denny Hamlin, but it didn't stop there. Well after the race was over, water was found in Kurt Busch's and Ryan Newman's fuel tanks and the Richard Childress team reported that water was found in all three of its cars -- driven by Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick, respectively. In fact, there are some who suspect that water in the fuel led directly to Jimmie Johnson's win in Atlanta.
Of course, Johnson pulled into the lead for good when Hamlin's car went dead on a re-start with three laps to go, causing a major pileup. Johnson then took the checkered flag under yellow, boosting his chances to win the Nextel Cup considerably. Of course, NASCAR officials don't want to believe water in the fuel was the reason for Hamlin's stall. Instead, NASCAR's John Darby opined that Hamlin's car stuttered and stumbled on the all-important re-start because it was low on fuel. But Hamlin's crew chief Mike Ford said the car had plenty of fuel to run the three remaining laps. He thinks water in the gas was the problem.
Of course, believing that the car was simply low on fuel is a convenient solution for NASCAR. The organization has no culpability if it was simply a misjudgment by the team on how much fuel they had aboard and how far they could go on it. But if the sputtering came about as a result of water in the fuel, NASCAR does bear significant responsibility because its designated fuel sponsor, Sunoco, supplies fuel to each and every NASCAR Nextel Cup team. So, if Hamlin's car went dead because of water in the fuel and Johnson won as a result of that, NASCAR must assume responsibility. That's not something NASCAR seems eager to do, thus the backpedaling on water in the fuel and the implied "no-harm, no-foul" response to the situation.
The fact of the matter though is that there was harm and there is a foul if NASCAR-provided fuel was responsible for one driver losing a race and another winning it. A shrug of the shoulders is not a sufficient response to the issue.
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