As a reporter who covers races then does write-ups or re-caps of those races, I can tell you that post-race disqualifications are the worst. Having such a thing happen means the story that was written is essentially null and void. And there’s no good way to go back and redo it to make it seem accurate.
Such was the case on Wednesday night when Dennis Erb, Jr. had seemingly scored what would be considered by most a popular victory. It was the classic David beating Goliath story considering the Illinois driver known as the ‘One Man Band’ due to his limited budget compared to other teams in the pit area had just defeated multiple-time SpeedWeeks feature winner Brandon Sheppard in a race that saw numerous position changes among the top-5 cars throughout the entire 40-lap event.
Not long after the checkered flag had been waved over the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature I had put the post-race story … and myself to bed. It wasn’t until Thursday morning that I found out that Erb had been disqualified from his win due to failure to report to post-race inspection.
And as stated before, there is no good way to fix the story. It’s not like the on-track action changed. It can’t be rewritten in such a way as to pretend the driver who was originally flagged as the winner was never there and that battles for second were actually fights for the lead. All that really can be done is to recreate the opening paragraph to reflect the change and add some awkward final statement regarding the reason for the disqualification.
But the bigger issue here is not the plight of racing reporters. The real topic is that of post-race disqualifications.
Some infractions are clearly worthy of penalization. The car being too light at the scales or being shod with doped up tires are obvious reasons to throw a winner out. However, failure to report to post-race tech inspection seems far less worthy of harshness.
The simple fact of the matter is that it, like the other infractions noted above, is part of the racing landscape. Even when an emotional victory has been achieved, the most basic of rules has to be followed and penalized if not followed. While such a penalty may not feel right and acquiring a win in such a way may seem somewhat tainted for the original runner-up, it is what has to be done for the obvious reason that a team could “fix” something they knew was illegal if allowed to take the car back to their pit area before going to inspection.
That is not to say that Erb and his crew were trying to circumvent the rules. That mistake can almost certainly be chalked up as a mistake made in the excitement of the moment. Still, it is part of the process which is pointed out in every drivers meeting.
Post-race disqualifications are tough on everyone. Most officials are not looking to take away trophies, reporters don’t enjoy rewriting stories, and most of all, winners don’t like going from first to last in an instant. Unfortunately, it’s just part of the game sometimes.