Ryan: Time for ‘encumbered’ to exit . . . and maybe take wins? Thoughts on Joey Logano penalty

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A few thoughts on the massive penalty Thursday morning to Richmond International Raceway winner Joey Logano.

–Time to eradicate encumbered: Euphemisms are a detriment to our society that generally preclude getting to the root of a matter by speaking bluntly.

When people say they are having “issues,” what they actually mean are “problems.” Yes, you might think you are “reaching out” … but what you really are doing is calling or emailing.

In NASCAR, when drivers talk about their teams having or lacking “resources,” they actually mean “money.” And when team executives talk about “sponsorship inventory,” that’s code for “we need more money.”

Which brings us to “encumbered.” Why should anyone be using this word, asked a highly influential member of the NASCAR community?

In its era of transparency, NASCAR would do itself some favors if it used franker language. An “encumbered” win is a “tainted” win – full stop.

Understandably, teams would resist such language because it leaves them sideways with corporate sponsors that want to avoid the optics of being associated with rulebreakers.

But NASCAR lets teams – and itself – off the hook by avoiding the most direct description of what’s at stake. There already is too much impenetrable nomenclature in explaining Logano’s penalty (“mating surfaces”, “planar” and “spacer/pinion angle” were some of my favorites). Sorry about the aspersions being cast at Team Penske, but inadvertently throwing shade shouldn’t be high on the priority list for NASCAR when it doles out punishments.

Time to take away wins? It’s debate that reignites whenever a race winner runs afoul of the rulebook in a major way.

Two months ago on NASCAR America, analyst Jeff Burton made an impassioned and sensible case that stripping race victories should be considered.

The refrain long was that NASCAR didn’t want to invalidate wins because it wanted fans to know who the winner was when they left the track. In 21st century America, it is very possible – if not probable – that fans could learn via social media of a win being stripped before the affected driver.

It would be a shame to have the storyline spoiled of Logano winning in his 300th career start. But if the penalty was severe enough to disqualify its playoff eligibility and sit crew chief Todd Gordon for two races, then it seems right to award the win to teammate Brad Keselowski (hey, there’s some Penske consolation, and he did seem to have the strongest car Sunday).

It always could be restored if Penske appealed and won.

–An unfortunate narrative: In its latest of umpteenth crackdowns on inspection, NASCAR officials said they wanted to issue penalties closer to when the infractions were committed.

The preponderance of practice holds, loss of pit selection, etc., stems from this new approach. It’s a noble goal that prevents the empty space of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (and an ensuing race weekend) from being swallowed whole by talking about penalties, which candidly are unremarkable as a storyline. (You might have heard stock-car racing started with outlaws.)

Despite this push, Team Penske has illustrated it hasn’t worked as NASCAR hoped, between Logano’s punishment and the neverending saga of Keselowski’s Phoenix penalty ordeal.

You can debate whether it’s the fault of NASCAR or the teams for the endless war in the Laser Inspection Stations, but there is no doubt about this: None of this nonsense helps attract new fans.

–Caught on tape? Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford was approved after its postrace teardown at the R&D Center, begging the question of how two cars equally built and prepared under the same roof could differ in compliance. Making the rounds on social media Thursday morning was video of Keselowski swerving on the cooldown lap while congratulating Logano.

Did Logano lack the time and discretion to execute a similar maneuver and ensure legality because he won the race (NASCAR has policed swerving because it helps reset suspensions to pass the postrace laser inspection)?

Or was this (regardless of swerving) a case of the setups of Logano and Keselowski being SO divergent that one of their cars (the slower of the two, oddly) could be out of compliance despite originating in the same building?

Regardless, it certainly puts the comments of Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Texas in a new light.