Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Viewer Alert: Fike Allegations And "NASCAR Now"


For those of you who have not read the Ryan McGee story over on ESPN.com, here is the link.

McGee writes about the new claim from former Truck Series driver Aaron Fike that he used heroin on race days prior to the events. In a nutshell, Fike states that he was on the track while high on drugs.

You may remember Ryan McGee as being employed by NASCAR Images over the last several years as the Managing Editor for that company. He is now a freelance writer who works for ESPN and has recently expanded his stories beyond NASCAR and into other sports. This is another strong and hard-hitting story that is going to have big repercussions.

NASCAR Now may treat this story as breaking news, or simply use it to lead the show. Even with the Truck Series off this weekend, this statement from Fike to McGee is ultimately going to cause a flood of concern. There is certainly a good reason why.

Many felt that other drivers who have been suspended for failed drug tests may have also been in the same situation and put other drivers at risk. Without naming names, veteran fans have seen the reckless actions of several young drivers who are currently suspended from the sport for failed drug tests.

The weakness in the NASCAR system is the current policy of testing once an issue or suspicion has arisen about a driver or crew member. The obvious topic of discussion is whether or not to institute a regular program of testing for anyone involved in "at risk" activity in the sport.

It should be very interesting at 6PM Eastern Time to see just how NASCAR Now deals with this story, and who they choose to have on the program to speak to this topic. This is not an issue that a Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree can speak to, other than to relate their own personal feelings.

NASCAR Now is going to need Ryan McGee or Aaron Fike to pay this story off on the only daily NASCAR program on TV. They will also need someone to speak to this issue from the perspective of what other professional sports leagues do in the same situations.

This post is not to debate Fike's statement or his personal agenda. It is merely to alert NASCAR fans that watching or recording the Wednesday 6PM show would be a good idea if they wanted an update on this story. There will be a full column up about the show immediately after it concludes. Thanks.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is one strange story. Heroin is a downer-an opium derivitive. Although people can build a tolerance to it and maintain a semblance of functionality, it sure seems as though someone in the sport who was around the guy would notice something!
It puts NASCAR in a tough spot-in the sense that historically speaking, the entire sport had its roots in the creation, transport and sale of illegal contraband-alcohol.
True, its been a long time since those days, but the irony of the sport trying to deal with substance abuse is too prominant to ignore.

SophiaZ123 said...

Anytime somebody has been banned for ANY substance I have wondered, did they drive high during a race. Hard to believe it never happened.

I hae seen functional addicted people in a job I had years ago...surgeons, airline pilots, very disconcerting.

Lou, Kingston, NY said...

wow again, JD.
Yes, I will watch. Just what we do not need, another can of worms opened up. We need all the info we can get from sources that we know and trust over the years to help us. But maybe Mr. Fike may need the most help. Or will NASCAR?

Tracy said...

It sounds as if Fike has his head in the right place now. Good for him for bringing up an issue that hasn't seen much daylight in Nascar. I read somewhere that he's in the USAC car owned by Kasey Kahne, who is a longtime friend who has stepped up to help Fike as long as he stays clean. If your friends and empoyers can't tell you're strung out, it's scary to think who is driving high. Is it a high percentage? Who knows? If I were driving at those speeds on those tracks, I'd like some reassurance.

And whatever happened to Shane Hmiel?

Anonymous said...

In that link to Ryan's summary story, there is also a link partway down next to Ryan's picture to the actual magazine story, which is even more indepth with Aaron.

It shows how outmoded NASCAR is when in the magazine article it notes the IRL changed its drug policy because of Fike. And he didn't even drive for their league.
NASCAR Now definitely needs to mention the stringent policies either in place or being implemented in other leagues and ask someone why NASCAR doesn't feel the need to follow suit.

The Indy Racing League has also bolstered what was already considered the toughest policy in motorsports, randomly testing everyone from racers to owners to pit crews to PR reps. While politely refusing to name Fike as the cause, an IRL spokesperson admits the new approach came about "in light of recent events."

Bobby said...

The IRL's drug policy should also note that Fike had raced, and won, in IRL Infiniti Pro (now Firestone Indy Lights) races, including a win at Joliet. He also passed an IRL rookie proficiency test that permitted him to race in the IndyCar Series.

It was after Fike's suspension when the IRL implemented rules; NASCAR and the IRL are both members of ACCUS, the local governing arm of the FIA. If the FIA imposes drug testing on drivers for specific FIA licences, NASCAR drivers must pass such tests, as they are under FIA orders. There are selected Sprint Cup races (most notably the Daytona 500) where drivers must hold an FIA licence.

An FIA licence, in the United States, may only be awarded to drivers with licences and proficient in IMSA, SCCA, USAC, IRL, NASCAR, or Atlantic Championship (formerly Champ Car; they did not include the Atlantic Championship in the merger, and will keep the series to be run by themselves in 2008).

FIA drug tests are mandatory in those races.

I do think NASCAR needs to seriously include drug testing for BOTH drivers and over the wall crew members.

Anonymous said...

I believe Kasey Kahne employs Tyler Walker, who is also under NASCAR suspension but has undergone rehab treatment. They were longtime friends until Tyler's issues came up, and Tyler had driven for him in the past.

I don't believe he employs Fike. In the ESPN article it sounds like Fike's USAC shop is near him in Ohio.

Shane Hmiel also returned to USAC for a while and he's racing midgets now but I don't know if they are USAC midget races he's competing in.

Anonymous said...

In the ESPN article it sounds like Fike's USAC shop is near him in Ohio.

Sorry I meant to say near him in Illinois.

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
darbar said...

I just finished listening to Nascar on Sirius and was amazed by their take on this issue. I wanted to call and tell Chocolate Meyers that it's not a good idea to have their head in the sand and say that this is not a problem in Nascar and that Nascar has a handle on it. IF Nascar did indeed have a handle on it, then they would have seen that Fike was high on heroin when in his truck. The Sirius guys said that Nascar can see when there's a drug problem, but apparently this isn't the case. Nascar needs not to pull a Major League Baseball and basically ignore the fact that drugs are pervasive and that their drivers or crew members could be using. Nascar needs to inplement a fair and non-restrictive drug testing policy that goes on often during the season. When you have guys like Fike and Hmiel doing drugs, you can bet there are more than just the two of them. Ignoring the problem could cause an accident of catastrophic proportions.

stricklinfan82 said...

As a fan this story makes me sick. Hopefully some good will come out of this though if the TV networks make a big deal about it and don't elect to "sweep it under the rug" because of its controversial nature.

We all know that NASCAR quite often seems to be much more reactive than proactive when it comes to implementing changes of any kind.

Now I'm not a NASCAR driver and don't work with NASCAR so I don't know how their drug testing policy works. But when the story of his arrest/suspension first broke, I seem to recall many many drivers and media members crying out for a more random drug testing policy than their current method of testing "only when there is a reasonable doubt". Now maybe things have changed since then but I do not recall hearing publicly about any changes to this system, and I recall NASCAR defending themselves at the time and making sure to tell us Fike said he never did drugs during any race weekend.

If the policy has indeed not changed and these new allegations prove to be true, then I really hope we see the media, drivers, owners, team members, etc. ramp up putting pressure on this issue. If ANY driver, even one, has concerns over this policy then this is a very serious problem and I certainly hope the TV and print media will give them multiple opportunities to speak their mind and provoke NASCAR into making a change.

If this is true then this is a very very very serious issue and needs to be talked about everywhere. Not just on NASCAR Now but on the Truck race broadcasts, the Nationwide broadcasts, and the Cup race broadcasts. I'm sure there are plenty of drivers around that know a lot about Fike. Speed Channel and Fox currently employ the man that owned the team Fike drove for until his suspension - Jeff Hammond. There are also numerous veteran drivers in the broadcast booth right now that can tell us a lot more about NASCAR's drug testing policy (past and present) than the public knows - Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Kyle Petty, etc. - so I'd like to hear from them as well.

And Tracy, the particular driver you asked about has been banned for life from NASCAR after failing their drug rehab program.

Anonymous said...

darbar said...
I just finished listening to Nascar on Sirius and was amazed by their take on this issue. I wanted to call and tell Chocolate Meyers that it's not a good idea to have their head in the sand and say that this is not a problem in Nascar and that Nascar has a handle on it.
_________
The writer of that article pointed out that the NASCAR media folks rely on NASCAR to grant them access.

So it will be interesting to see if anyone sticks their neck out on this one at the risk of getting their hard card pulled, meaning they can't do much of anything at the track.

Tracy said...

Thanks for the clarification on Tyler Walker and Shane Hmiel.

Fike deserves credit for telling the truth about being on heroin during a truck race. I can't imagine the Nascar folks think well of him for being so honest. But if safety is a primary concern (and it is), then drug testing policies should reflect that concern.

How hard is it to see the solution?

Anonymous said...

"NASCAR Now is going to need Ryan McGee or Aaron Fike to pay this story off on the only daily NASCAR program on TV. They will also need someone to speak to this issue from the perspective of what other professional sports leagues do in the same situations."

I agree. Terry Blount and David Newton just posted columns on espn.com. While they were good columns, I hope I don't see them up there tonight giving their views instead of the author who actually went to Aaron Fike's hometown and spoke to him or Aaron himself. Aaron appears willing to talk so they should get him if possible.

Also strange that it's very clear that neither Newton or Blount knew about this story or they would have posted their columns last night (when this story was posted on the website) or this morning. Newton is using quotes from one of the same people (the testing expert) quoted in the ESPN Mag, but noticeably, they say "he said last year" or something. So it look likes he's using old quotes from the testing expert from another story he did about Fike. I know the Burton Harvick quotes are old because I saw them saying those comments on TV last year.

So I'd wager the ESPN Mag people don't let anybody know what they're working on. And it must have caught people by surprise including those at espn.com.

There's not even an Associated Press story yet (you'd think they would have "Espn the Mag is reporting (this)..." but no. No mention on Yahoo, That's Racin, or the big sites I visit. Scenedaily has a link to a sporting news story (which basically has what I thought AP would have), and that's it. It's not on nascar.com either.

Anonymous said...

They randomly test cars after races, why not the drivers?

Anonymous said...

NASCAR's comments that they have things under control and don't have a problem just sound so stupid...when you have a driver saying he drove while on drugs!

red said...

as i recall from the period of time surrounding the shane hmiel mess, there seemed to be a consensus among the interviewed drivers that random, ongoing drug tests should be done. (it's important to make the distinction between how the drivers felt about the individual involved & how they felt about the process. clearly, there were differing opinions on the individual but i seem to remember that there was agreement on the issue of random testing.) random, on-going testing seems like a simple no-brainer. if i'm going to driving next to someone on a track, i certainly would want assurances that he/she is not under the influence of any drug, legal or otherwise.

bottom line: test, test everyone, test often and be consistent. there is no room for uncertainty here. if someone tests positive, provide the rehab option and continue to test. and if someone fails to complete the proscribed rehab process or tests positive while suspended? then banish him/her from driving in the sport for life. because, as much as i like shane hmiel, i wouldn't want to be running beside him the day after he did a banned substance. this sport is dangerous enough w/o the added uncertainty of drug abuse.

i will most certainly watch this program & i certainly hope nascar issues a definitive, clear, absolute media statement following it. and props to fike for working to get himself back "on track": he's standing up, admitting what he did was stupid and endangered others & is now working to help educate young people about it.

Anonymous said...

I (unfortunately)have had this problem impact my personal and professional life (use by others not by me personally). If you do not know what to look for there are may times when you can not tell that a person is impaired (I got better at it over time) and those using can get very good at hiding it. I remember the first thing I did when hearing of this was be relieved that Fike stated he did not use when driving and was a recent user. I probably should have known better. The one thing the skeptic in me will say is Fike coming out now because he is in recovery and wants to improve they safety for everyone or his he exaggerating the truth for some type of personal gain. The fact that this is for ESPN the magazine is part of my skepticism since they are the ones who started swaybar gate and again why did this wait until the magazine came out before it hit the fan.
But still...Random drug testing along with testing for cause could work if they ramp up the random or what they consider cause. For example (I am by no means saying these drivers have issues but it helps my point)- Denny Hamlin almost passed out after Sundays race- drug test, Jeff Gordon couldn't get a handle on his race car and parked it -drug test, Michael McDowell and Reed Sorenson crashed in qualifying- drug test. Frequently late for driver meeting, or anything else for that matter- drug test, crashed- drug test (even if someone crashed you). No Tony calling out Goodyear should not be cause, and it can not be used by Nascar as a way to intimidate. Random needs to random but use a computer program (I am sure there is one out there, call a statistician) to provide multiple names each week, if they refuse pull their hard card until they comply and then retest them frequently. This can become a hugh can of worms especially in terms of privacy issues and am not sure if increased random or more strict on cause is a better answer. I am a regular poster here but because of the rather personal info in the beginning I am going to be an anon for this one.

SophiaZ123 said...

IIRC a few years back, Jr was interviewed on 60 minuts and the question of a drug policy came up and Jr said that their basically wasn't one!?

Am I the only one who remembers that interview.

NASCAR Powers that Be are STUPID if they think their sport is above the temptations of all others and their drivers are less than human.

This drug policy needs to be addressed and I hope this gets a lot of publicity myself.

red said...

hey anon 5:31 -- like you, i have experience w/drug abuse. in my case, both alcohol and illegal drugs being abused by several siblings, uncles, and my dad. it doesn't necessarily help see the problem coming but it does make one always suspicious of an addict's motives.

that being said: both fike and walker have been open and upfront about how close they came to killing themselves and have both worked to educate young people as to the dangers. i do not believe that fike is bringing the issue to light for personal gain. in fact, it is my understanding that he was recently commended by the judge and probation officer involved in his case for not only taking responsibility for his actions and for setting up a foundation and website to help others.

i will be very interested in what fike has to say and i encourage the media to hold nascar's feet to the fire on this issue. it's NOT like a stolen sway bar or a missing oil reserve tank lid or a quarter panel being too high or low. this is a basic safety issue because, face it! nascar can make the safest car possible but if the driver is impaired, the entire field is in jeopardy.

SophiaZ123 said...

Good show so far but Skinner left his sunglasses on...sigh..small quibble.

but I am glad the guys are open to more drug testing. Rusty says he tests his team frequently. I think his idea that 5 random drivers a race should be tested.

That would be ideal imho.

darbar said...

Nascar Now did some pretty effective coverage of this issue. I liked they had a guy from the World Doping Agency. He had quite a bit if information on the effects of heroin. And this whole business of "reasonable suspicion" sounds far too bogus and a line you use when you are trying to hide your head from an issue. While the specialist said he congratulates Nascar's policy, I think that's bull. As a former high school teacher, I know that kids/adults become adept at covering up their drug and alcohol abuse. So unless Nascar is going to do full body checks,looking for track/needle marks, they're not going to know who's high and impaired. Because of this revelation from Fike, Nascar needs to implement a more widespread testing program to protect their drivers, crews and fans. There's no second guessing or looking into a guy's eyes to see if he's doping.

Chip Ganassi sounded a little silly with his answer to Nicole asking about drug testing. Is this guy out of the loop or what? I mean, to say that he was surprised by Nicole asking him such a question really made him sound rather dumb, especially for a man who owns teams in both Nascar and IRL (who's testing policy is far more comprehensive than Nascar's. I just wanted to ask Chip if he has been sleeping for the past 24 hours and why he'd be surprised by the biggest Nascar story of the week.

red said...

i liked rusty's answer of "i don't wait on nascar to do everything" and that, as an owner, he takes responsibility for testing his employees. it is unsettling that he has concerns about pit members.

nascar respond: bleh. wishy-washy, non-committal, looking to be as white bread as possible. shame they blew the chance to say "like you, we just found out about fike's revelation and we're appalled. we're responding, we're stepping up the program, we'll have something in your hands, media types, in 10 days. we will work to make certain no one -- driver or pit crew member-- works a race under the influence!" like i said: bleh.

skinner & the glasses: looked bright out there. maybe the driver should be placed so that the sun is not in his eyes, thereby making it easier to see without sunglasses. i'm just sayin'. . .

and what the hell was up with brad d's camera presence? his head shot looked like a very bad mug shot. did they not use makeup on him? most disconcerting.

ganassi: how the hell can you be "caught off guard" about drug testing? isn't this story on your radar at all?!? he sounded clueless as an owner, especially after rusty's comments. yeah, i know he girded himself for questions about his texas comments but c'mon, man! think on your feet!

Anonymous said...

"skinner & the glasses: looked bright out there. maybe the driver should be placed so that the sun is not in his eyes, thereby making it easier to see without sunglasses. i'm just sayin'. . ."


It is a whole different situation when you are setting up for a live shot outdoors. if you put skinner in the shade he will be too dark and the background will be washed out and too bright. so the only thing you can do is put skinner in the light. I know people don't like the sunglasses but sometimes you have to do stuff like that outdoors.

Newracefan said...

I never realized that Nascar encourages and possibly holds team owners accountable for testing of their employees; that helps me be a little more comfortable with this entire mess. Skinner also says they use the more complex (and expensive) test that shows more than just a snapshot of that point in time which is also a improvement in what I thought was going on in Nascar. There is also the issue of what level of racing are we talking about here, there's cup, NW, Trucks and all the lower series and that's a lot of random testing, perhaps that's why Nascar does it on a reasonable suspicion basis. I still think they should throw in some random testing on each driver at least 2-3 times a season for the upper series. Nicole did a good job of asking the why now for Aaron and did anyone else think Chip just talked in circles

red said...

anon 6:42: hmmmm. i dunno. my daughters have done tv production at both their middle and high schools and they have no problem doing outside shots with folks. sometimes, it's just a matter of finding the right place and using the right filter. that being said: as sophiaz said, it is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.

Anonymous said...

Ganassi had a busy day in Indy today announcing he was partnering with Rahal/Letterman to run Alex Lloyd at the Indy 500. My guess is he was previously scheduled to do the interview about his team's recent mediocre runs in Nascar and wasn't up to speed on the Fike thing. Manske probably could have given him a heads up before the interview that a drug question was coming.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up about NASCAR Now on the site.

JD

Gymmie said...

@Tracy--my friend out in Cali said that he was in his 'hood over the weekend racing with the Bay Cities Midgets. Apparently it was Shane's first time in the car and he won the feature :). They usually run in the Bay Area but a few times a year the Midgets go up to the Redding area to race.

@darbar--I had the same thoughts on Floyd. I was like have ya been under a rock?

@anon 7:09--If so, guess I *can* let Floyd slide this time on not knowing. But still seems he could have 2 cents to share.

red said...

gymmie: thanks for the info about shane: wish i coulda been there. as i said: i like the kid and it was really hard to watch him implode the way he did. even tho' nascar's out for him, i'm really glad he's racing again. i believe him to be a talented young man and hope he's getting it back together. while nascar has to limit the number of chances they're able to give someone, life shouldn't. i can only hope he has the strength to stay clean and get his life back.

Gymmie said...

@red--you're welcome! I agree! I'm not a fan of Shane but I DO hope that he gets his life on track and is able to find and keep the support to keep him on the straight and narrow.