Martin Truex Jr. has champion next to his name. He’s a two-time XFinity champ who just clinched the Cup series regular-season championship.
With the word champion comes certain responsibilities. Splitting hairs when it comes to cheating is not one of them.
In remarks to Motorsports, Truex tried to justify cheating by calling it “pushing the envelope” and giving the third-grader response of everyone does it.
And id anyone thinks this is a case of trying to twist his words, here is what he was quoted as saying:
“I think it’s just sometimes you go too far. Sometimes things unexpected happen. Everybody in the garage pushes the rules. You have to to be competitive, you know, so labeling people cheaters for failing something minuscule is harsh and again it just sheds a bad light on our sport, you know, I think.”
There was much more.
“It’s frustrating as a driver and as a race fan though to see people just get so up in arms and so upset about something as small as some of the things that we’ve seen penalties come down for and accuse people of being cheaters. The things that get said about them is kind of way over the top and not really fair, and it’s frustrating at times to see that, even if you’re not on the receiving end of it.”
There are a couple of things here. Rules are rules. There is no line between breaking a rule even a little bit versus breaking a rule a lot. That’s like saying copying only a few answers from a test isn’t cheating; or that you shouldn’t get a citation because you didn’t know you can’t smoke in public place (in some cities).
The difference here is NASCAR teams know the rules, and as Truex himself said, everyone pushes the rules. So if you push the rules, knowing you have a chance of breaking them, it’s all on you.
Denny Hamlin, who has been in the middle of the rule-breaking controversy after he had two wins encumbered at Darlington, said it best (paraphrasing here): It may have been minor and unintentional, but we broke the rules, and we have to live with it and move on.
He didn’t try to split hairs on breaking the rules. And didn’t because there’s no justification for that.