Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Suspend Annett for All of 2011

Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett, who is just weeks away from making his debut with Rusty Wallace Racing, was arrested Sunday morning in Mooresville, N.C. and charged with four counts: driving while intoxicated (DWI), texting and driving, failure to reduce speed and resisting an officer.

A statement for RWR said that Annett would be subject to "a package of sanctions," but that he would be behind the wheel of the No. 62 car in the season opener at Daytona on Feb. 19.

Umm ... what?!

Any time a professional athlete is busted for drunk driving -- reports indicate that Annett's blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit in North Carolina -- I feel a suspension is in order. That's especially true in NASCAR.

Think about it; Annett was busted for getting behind the wheel when (apparently really) drunk. Do you think he should be climbing into a race car any time soon?

Team owner Rusty Wallace told (remember, Wallace is also an ESPN analyst) that he doesn't take this sort of thing lightly, but if that's the case, then why is Annett being allowed to run at Daytona? Did the sponsor dictate that it would not pay up if Annett wasn't in the car? That wouldn't surprise me -- and as hard as sponsors are to come by these days, it would be tempting for Wallace to acquiesce to the sponsor's request.

Still, Annett apparently has a problem, and if I'm one of his competitors, the last thing I want to see is him on the race track. The late Tim Richmond had the reputation of being a partier, and some drivers used to worry about him being under the influence behind the wheel.

Then there's the tale of the late Rob Moroso. Moroso died in 1990 after he was involved in a high-speed accident near Mooresville, N.C. Officials later found Moroso had a BAC more than twice the legal limit.

We're fortunate Annett didn't become another Moroso.

If I'm NASCAR, Annett doesn't see the season. I don't care about his contract with RWR or his sponsor commitments; he threw all that out the window when he decided to climb behind the wheel with a BAC of .32 (experts say alcohol poisoning usually sets in when the BAC approaches .40).

I don't know if Annett has a drinking problem or not, but he does not deserve to be in a race car this season. Suspend him for 2011 and set rigid guidelines that he must adhere to in order to have any hope of racing in 2012. NASCAR got tough on Shane Hmiel and kicked him out of the sport for drug use; why not treat Annett's incident the same way?

If Annett's allowed to race at Daytona, whatever punishment RWR doles out will be largely meaningless. If NASCAR doesn't step in and park Annett, then the sanctioning body has a large perception problem. There's already one, considering alcohol sponsors are prevalent in the sport, but there's no way Annett can drive.

If Wallace won't do the right thing, NASCAR must: suspend Michael Annett for the 2011 season.

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