Over the last few years, there has been a great deal of discussion about corruption within the highest tiers of sports organizations and governing bodies. Perhaps the biggest of all these scandals was the FIFA soccer scandal, which seemed to touch every related nation, and resulted in numerous arrests and depositions, even firings and criminal proceedings. However, it seems that no sport is immune from these kinds of rumors and speculation, and that includes NASCAR.
NASCAR is not rigged. While conspiracy theories and rumors are common, especially around misplaced calls and arranging race results no concrete evidence supports these claims. NASCAR has rules, inspections, and penalties for violations. Rigging allegations are largely based on speculation, rather than fact.
In the article below we’re asking – is NASCAR rigged? Is there truth to rumors and conspiracy theories that have circulated the message boards on this? We’ll try to explain below.
NASCAR: Is it Rigged?
The short answer to this is no, absolutely not. While there have always been theories and accusations surrounding the genuine nature of some NASCAR seasons and events, there has been zero concrete evidence presented that can substantiate these claims. What most people claim as evidence for NASCAR being rigged are merely a series of coincidences that in a wider context are generally explained away.
Having said all that, looking at some of this “evidence” by itself does make for interesting reading, and it becomes easy to see why some people do think that NASCAR might not be a real representation of stock car racing.
What Evidence is There of “Rigging” in NASCAR?
First of all, let’s be clear about what we mean when we say “rigging” in NASCAR. What we are referring to is NASCAR officials or other related employees deliberately fixing the results of races in order to obtain the best-possible TV ratings and financial outcomes for the sport of NASCAR. Cheating is something entirely different!
Another word people have used to describe this kind of problem is “scripted” where they reflect on whether or not a NASCAR season is running according to a preset script in which the (invariably exciting and thrilling) final outcome has been decided.
These are what we are denying exists. There are, however, some very interesting coincidences that might make you think. For example, did you know that in July 2001, the winner of the Pepsi 400 in Daytona was none other than Dale Earndhardt Jr., only months after his beloved father had died at the Daytona 500. Was Earnhardt’s return to Daytona and a victory for his family preordained by NASCAR? Some people think so.
Another famous example is that of Chase Elliott winning the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series. What was so strange about him winning? Well, some claim that owing to his popularity with fans, NASCAR made a decision that he should win in 2020 in order to recover from flagging ratings.
Perhaps most infamously, at the Kansas Speedway in 2020, NASCAR admitted that they did miss a call against Elliott that would have penalized him and probably cost him the race — and ultimately the championship. Did they miss that call deliberately? Was that mistake on Elliott’s part simply getting in the way of a good television script?
Once again, there’s no concrete evidence for that. Furthermore, it’s more than a little insulting to Elliott that his victory was part of some conspiracy to rig the event. First of all, Hendrick Motorsports, the team for which Elliott races, had won 9 of the 16 championships prior to 2021, and Elliott himself has never finished lower than 10th in the standings since 2016.
Is it such a surprise, therefore, that such a driver and such a team would emerge victorious in 2020. Perhaps Elliott did get lucky in there being a missed call against him, but such things happen in sports all the time.
Further Factors that Fuel the NASCAR Rigging Rumors
It’s a Television Show
There’s no escaping the simple fact that NASCAR races, and the entire NASCAR season is all part of a television show, and one that desperately needs to keep its audience in place. In recent years, NASCAR has been fighting falling viewer numbers as younger generations appear less interested in the raw horsepower, muscle and skill that is NASCAR racing.
When you want good ratings, you have to create something compelling, and this is behind a lot of the thinking when it comes to so-called rigging in NASCAR.
It’s not a concept unique to this motorsport, and it’s something that we can all understand and appreciate. Fans of the “Hunger Games” films and books will know the lengths that the game makers in Panem went to to keep people interested in their very special annual TV broadcast, with gruesome results.
Thankfully NASCAR doesn’t have to go that far, but there does seem to be a small mountain of circumstantial evidence that supports the notion of NASCAR tampering or interference…all in the interest of their TV show. Read on to learn more…
Why Do some People think NASCAR is Rigged.
The first weapon of the “NASCAR Rigging” arsenal is that of the caution. When a yellow flag caution is issued, it forces drivers to bunch together into tighter packs, bringing the race back to more equal footing on the one hand, but also getting the pack ready to be unleashed once again while in close proximity to each other — that can be exciting to watch.
What’s more, they can be a convenient way to “reset” the field so that the driver they favor has a better chance of recovering or winning the race. This is all alleged and speculative of course, there is zero evidence that any of this is the reality of what’s happening. It doesn’t stop Facebook groups exploding when it happens though!
The decision to make each NASCAR race divided into stages also raised some eyebrows. A new stage means a new start, with winners in the early stages, but also more of a guarantee that one driver or team can’t just run away with the race from the start and create a dull spectacle where they are in the lead throughout.
Using stages helps reset the playing field and give more drivers a chance of victory. If you were looking to make an hours-long TV broadcast more interesting and wanted to keep people guessing about who might win outright, this would be an ingenious way to do it.
Finally, we have perhaps the most controversial (but officially non-existent) weapon of all in the arsenal of the NASCAR TV excitement arsenal — and it’s known simply as “The Call.” This refers to a supposed practice of NASCAR officials looking the other way and thus giving a driver an unfair advantage over the others, and in doing so may create the desired outcome of a race.
One of the most famous examples of “The Call” was in the 1984 Firecracker 400 in Daytona, where Richard Petty was supposedly the beneficiary of “The Call” and won his 200th race. Why should people suspect this of being dubious? Well, it just so happened that President Ronald Reagan was in attendance, so what a fantastic occasion that would be for a driver to win his 200th race.
It’s pretty unfair to Petty, of course, but it’s one example among many that fuels people’s belief that NASCAR races are in fact rigged on some level.
NASCAR has consistently denied any rigging allegations and emphasized its commitment to fair competition. Officials maintain that the organization operates with integrity and transparency.
To address concerns, NASCAR has implemented measures such as employing a comprehensive rulebook, establishing a thorough inspection process, and imposing penalties for rule violations. These efforts aim to reassure fans of the sport’s legitimacy and integrity, although if some ones favorite driver gets penalized you will invariably hear the ‘rigged’ cry go up.
As some one much more intelligent than me once said
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time“Jon Lydgate
Rigging allegations are not unique to NASCAR, and in fact have much more creedeance in some other sports with concrete evidence. Sports like soccer, basketball, and tennis have faced similar controversies.
By comparing NASCAR to other sports, it becomes evident that rigging allegations are a broader issue in the sports world, with organizations constantly working to maintain fair competition, and that as a sport NASCAR, and motor sports in general fair pretty well in comparison.
NASCAR’s governing structure and regulations: NASCAR is governed by a set of rules and regulations designed to ensure fair competition. The organization has a dedicated competition department that oversees race operations, technical inspections, and the enforcement of rules.
NASCAR also has a Race Control center, where officials monitor races in real-time and make decisions on penalties and cautions. This governing structure aims to maintain the sport’s integrity and keep competition balanced.
NASCAR shows no evidence of being rigged, 40 drivers all vying for that win would be very VERY vocal if they thought that the race was being manipulated in anyway, and although the usual disagreements with decisions are common, less common is any suggested that a bad call is anything other than that (subjectively of course!)
So feel free to shout rigged at the TV as your driver is pulled form the lead to do a penalty, but so it with a wry smile on your face, as it isn’t rigged, but we gotta try everything haven’t we!