Long upset at NASCAR leadership
As the realization that the National Stock Car Commission on Tuesday upheld the record 200-point, $200,000 penalty against him sunk in, Carl Long became increasingly frustrated. Frustration turned to anger. In minutes, he was livid.
"Big Bill [France, NASCAR founder] and Bill Jr. ruled the sport like a father -- at the end of the day they took care of their family," Long said. "These guys don't care. They don't have any heart. Basically, it seems like they don't care about the sport, they just want to make a dollar.
"I truly have a sour taste of the management in our sport. They've forgotten the roots of how this sport was created, and who are the people buying the tickets, sitting in the stands. The people in the stands are me."
Multiple calls to NASCAR for comment were not immediately returned.
Long was penalized two weeks ago after NASCAR discovered the engine in his Dodge to be 0.17 of an inch larger than the maximum-allowed 358.000 cubic inch displacement during pre-race inspection for the Sprint Showdown.
Long maintains he purchased the engine from "a reputable builder," i.e., longtime engine man Ernie Elliott. It was a former Chip Ganassi Racing motor, which was expendable in the wake of Ganassi's merger with Dale Earnhardt Inc., and subsequent move to Chevrolet. Elliott bought it, then sold it to Long.
When Long had to change engines prior to the Sprint Showdown, NASCAR surveyed the first engine and determined it to be illegal.
He was confident entering Tuesday's appeals hearing. He thought he'd go in, plead his case and come out with nothing more than a revamped concept of the lucrative engine-building-and-selling business in NASCAR. Not so.
What he got was an amendment. His suspension now applies only to the Cup garage. But he still owes the money. If the crew chief can't pay it, he says he has to.
And he can't.
"Brian France didn't have to do the things I have to do. Mike Helton, years ago, when he promoted Atlanta Motor Speedway, he'd cut you a deal. He'd work with you. I don't know what happened to that guy.
"Nobody's cutting deals. Not with the TV [networks], not with race teams. I could be speaking out of turn, but it seems pretty uniform. As long as everybody's making money they're all fat and happy."
Long then mentioned the May 26 "town hall" meeting.
"Our business is going downhill. It needs help," he said. "We need fans in the stands. When something isn't selling, Wal-Mart puts things on sale. I haven't seen NASCAR do that. License percentages have gone crazy.
"It's a big cannonball going on. For years you could see -- everybody wants NASCAR, everybody wants NASCAR, so they'll pay this much. Keep going up [in price]. Well, hell, that's over with."
To conclude, he questioned NASCAR's motive.
"We're the only professional athletes in the world that pay to play," Long said. "But they're looking for help. They just had that meeting. They want to know what they can do, but when they look where the help will come from -- small guys like me -- they're turning their nose up at us.
"They want somebody to come and start four teams. Or, maybe they're just trying to weasel all of us out so they can franchise. I don't know. I'm not a part of their kings of the round table."
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.