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A NASCAR Driver on Why You Have to Cheat to Win

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Photo: Chuck Burton (AP)

If you’ve followed NASCAR for any amount of time, you’ll know that the sport has a bit of a problem with cheating. It’s as much a part of NASCAR as milk is to the Indy 500. But driver Clint Bowyers is now claiming that the new rules basically require you to cheat to even have a modicum of success.

The NASCAR rules are designed with a little wiggle room. There’s space for interpretation—but it can get pretty dicey when it comes to deciding if it’s actually a spark of genius or just straight-up cheating. You basically have to dance on a tightrope and hope no one notices if you fall off.


In a recent interview with The Athletic, Bowyer shed some light on why cheating isn’t actually a bad thing in the NASCAR world:

That’s the craziest thing about it — it is cheating, right? It’s whatever. But it’s what they do for a living. If they don’t, you cannot have success. If you’re not pushing over the line — not to the line, but over the line — you’re going to be behind somebody that is willing to do that.

It’s such a tricky thing, right? You want a fair and even playing field, and I feel like I do have that. Every time I get on a racetrack, I don’t feel like somebody’s completely out of bounds. And when they are, I think it shows up very obvious. That being said, I think that’s some of the more interesting, neat things about our sport, is those guys’ ability to outfox Johnny Law.

That’s literally what they’re doing. But that’s what they get paid to do, and they’re all extremely intelligent people, too. This isn’t like ol’ Joe Blow off the street, uneducated nothing. They have massive amounts of experience doing this. There are highly educated people that are going to bat. And the sanctioning body is trying to keep up with these boys. That’s a tall order.


It’s an interesting view on something that most of us see as a straight-up, objectively bad. Cheating is cheating—that’s all there is to it, right?

Not in NASCAR. You’re basically supposed to bend the rules. This is an entirely specific niche reference, but it’s like that episode of Naruto with the written test of the Chunin Exam (please do not make fun of me, I was only into this show when I was an impressionable 12-year-old with very few friends)—the only way to pass is to use your super-specialized ninja skills to cheat off everyone around you.

Despite the fact that NASCAR promised to start doing the very obvious thing by disqualifying cheaters this season, we have yet to see a winner be disqualified for cheating. We have, however, seen post-race infractions announced immediately after the race instead of, y’know, a few days later, when no one cares anymore.