Your cheatin' car

February 18, 2007

Another sports star has fallen victim to substance abuse. It's a familiar tale but with a twist: The star is Michael Waltrip of NASCAR fame, and the performance-enhancing substance was administered to his Toyota Camry, not to him. NASCAR's punishment was swift and severe - the ejection of his crew chief and team vice president, a $100,000 fine and the loss of points toward the season championship.

But it's bad news for stock car racing. Today is NASCAR's Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, and Mr. Waltrip is a two-time winner. A half-dozen crews got in trouble last week for technical violations, but a fuel additive is an unusually flagrant act of cheating.

It's also a serious setback for Toyota, which is trying to gain acceptance in a sport where fans root for Fords and Chevys. Mr. Waltrip will still drive in today's race thanks to a strong qualifying race performance Thursday in an additive-free backup car.

NASCAR's crackdown on cheating is welcome. Integrity matters. And as fans of sports from baseball to cycling can attest, the best way to put the brakes on performance-enhancing substances is not to tolerate them.

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