It was last September when the biggest controversy struck NASCAR. Was there collusion between teams? Did a team manipulate the race so that their entire field could compete for a championship? What could be done?
C.E.O. Brian France took a stand a few days later, taking out one driver followed by adding another. But then a few days later, he came back and added more gasoline to the fire by adding another driver to the Chase, making it a 13-driver title battle rather than the normal 12-driver Chase. Why would he add another driver, expand the field by saying one driver was at a clear disadvantage to try and make the field.
In basic terms, it was because it was his sport, and he could do what he saw fit.
Ever since then, even with a new championship format for this year, controversy still hangs its head on the sport. Most notably, what has been questioned is the accountability of the sanctioning body to not take a stand, or to take a stand but then contradict it and make it more confusing. NASCAR was stern in it's penalties, but then almost had the fans and other competitors in a state of confusion one week later.
So what is the biggest issue with that ruling?
It's simple, accountability. It almost seemed like by telling fans that the sanctioning body could change the rules as they see fit make it seem like the ones that oversee the sport don't make a clear statement.
Today, in a different sport, it's lead official took a stand, and it's one NASCAR could learn from. When the NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced his decision to ban Mr. Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, for life due to his comments on African Americans in a recording that was released last weekend, he made a statement not just about the sport, but about himself. That statement was simple: it was not about doing what he wanted to do, or needed to do, but it was more about doing what was right.
One thing that has plagued NASCAR in recent history is being consistently inconsistent, and the heads of the sport are either hesitant to make a decision or when they do it's one that seems either too strict, too weak, or in the case of the Chase a year ago, too controversial.
NASCAR could take a big lesson from Silver in that making a bold statement means sticking to it, and have the support of the competitors. Even when Jeff Gordon was added to the Chase, he didn't feel that him being added like that was the right move. Fans were expecting Martin Truex Jr. to be removed, which he was, but fans were also expecting Clint Bowyer to be eliminated because of his involvement in the controversy. But, instead it simply made things more confusing, and it made the sanctioning body seem as though it had the right to change rules, or make things work for certain drivers instead of the entire field.
In the short tenure of Silver, he has already needed to make a very difficult decision, not to mention one that has been an issue in this country for years, but in making his statements today, he took a strong stand and in doing so etched a big mark in his legacy.
The difference between Silver and France is that when France made his bold statement, his follow-up action made his initial decision that was strong instead made to look more controversial.
Silver's bold statement today showed he had control, and he wasn't making the decisions because he needed to, or wanted to, but instead did so because it was what was right.
Maybe France could learn something from what Silver did, and apply it to himself and to NASCAR. When making a tough decision, don't do it because it's needed, but do it because it's right, and don't change rules just because you can.
NASCAR is a strong sport, and France is it's leader. Now, he has someone to compare to, and shoot for as his time as the top man in NASCAR continues to evolve.