NASCAR to disqualify illegal cars in move to squash cheating
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
Monday, February 4
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR announced Monday that it will disqualify race-winning cars that break the rules this season, confronting its longtime culture of cheating with a stringent new penalty system.
“If you are illegal, you don’t win the race,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer. “We cannot allow inspection and penalties to continue to be a prolonged story line. Race vehicles are expected to adhere to the rule book from the opening of the garage to the checkered flag.”
The new approach is a seismic shift for NASCAR because it traditionally wanted fans to leave the event knowing who won the race. If a car failed inspection, either at the track or in a more thorough secondary tear down at NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in the days following the race, driver and team were usually docked points, fined or in some cases had crew members suspended.
The penalties were typically not announced until several days after the race.
Inspections will now be completed at the track, a process that should take about 90 minutes, and the winning team will lose its victory if it fails. Disqualified cars will now lose points, purse money and even the trophy.
Kevin Harvick’s race-winning car failed inspection twice last season and both instances led to fines, suspensions and the loss of points. He won at Texas Motor Speedway in November to earn an automatic berth into the championship finale, but that was stripped when his car failed the R&D inspection days after the race.
Under the new system, the runner-up will be declared the winner and the team with the illegal car will receive only one championship point.
“We’re really looking at a total culture change,” O’Donnell said.
The last driver believed to have been stripped outright of a national series victory was Dale Jarrett following a 1995 race in NASCAR’s second-tier series at Michigan. He was dropped to 42nd when his Ford was found to have an illegally modified intake manifold two hours after the race.
NASCAR will also change its process for cars that fail inspection prior to qualifying and the race.
It had devolved into comedy at times last season as teams used multiple attempts to get through inspection. NASCAR said it will now eject team members, dock practice time and, in an enhanced penalty, bar a car from trying to qualify for the race if it fails three times. A car that twice fails prerace inspection will be sent to the back of the field at the start; a third failure will require a pass-through penalty at the start.
“We’ve been through a deterrence model where we’ve really worked with the race teams at the track and probably been more lenient than we should in terms of the number of times teams can go through inspection and pass, fail and there’s almost incentive to try to get something by NASCAR, so we want to really reverse that trend,” O’Donnell said. “We’re going to put it on the teams to bring their equipment right. When they come to the track, we’ll be much less lenient as they go through technical inspection with stiffer penalties in terms of qualifying, and then ultimately during the race, obviously we want everyone to be racing straight up.”
NASCAR will not go to a single-car qualifying format this season despite a new racing rules package that will likely bunch the field into a pack. NASCAR even took a step toward ensuring the qualifying sessions are entertaining by shortening the first round at short tracks and intermediate speedways from 15 minutes to 10. That will force drivers to get on the track and make their qualifying attempt rather than idling on pit road and trying to nail a fast lap as the clock expired. The break between rounds will be trimmed from seven minutes to five.
Qualifying at super speedways will remain two nontimed rounds of single-lap qualifying. Road-course qualifying will continue to be two rounds at 25 minutes followed by a 10-minute final round.
The seventh-generation stock car is on schedule to compete in 2021. A key goal in development is to strengthen the correlation between race cars and the model available to customers. NASCAR is courting additional manufacturers to join the sport and the Gen-7 car will aim to increase brand identity. NASCAR said it was near certain the new car will have a composite body.
“I think you will see a new NASCAR in terms of what you may see on the track and what you may see under the hood,” O’Donnell said.
Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., will have an expanded role in 2019 as managing director of racing operations and international development. Kennedy spent last season as managing director of the Truck Series. His new role puts him alongside O’Donnell at the front of NASCAR leadership. Kennedy will also work on expanding NASCAR in Canada, Mexico and Europe. China remains a targeted market for NASCAR.
TRIPLE TRUCK CHALLENGE
The Truck Series will have a three-race program with an opportunity to win up to $500,000 in bonus money. The program will run at consecutive races at Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Gateway Motorsports Park in July. The “Triple Truck Challenge” will award a $50,000 bonus to the eligible race winner of any of the three events. A second victory will be worth $150,000 and a sweep is worth $500,000.
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
People don’t trust blockchain systems – is regulation a way to help?
February 5, 2019
Author: Kevin Werbach, Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Disclosure statement: MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Blockchain technology isn’t as widely used as it could be, largely because blockchain users don’t trust each other, as research shows. Business leaders and regular people are also slow to adopt blockchain-based systems because they fear potential government regulations might require them to make expensive or difficult changes in the future.
Mistrust and regulatory uncertainty are strange problems for blockchain technology to have, though. The first widely adopted blockchain, bitcoin, was expressly created to allow financial transactions “without relying on trust” or on governments overseeing the currency. Users who don’t trust a bank or other intermediary to accurately track transactions can instead rely on unchangeable mathematical algorithms. Further, the system is decentralized, with data stored on thousands – or more – of internet-connected computers around the world, preventing regulators from shutting down the network as a whole.
As I discuss in my recent book, “The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust,” the contradiction between blockchain’s allegedly trust-less technology and its trust-needing users arises from a misunderstanding about human nature. Economists often view trust as a cost, because it takes effort to establish. But people actually want to use systems they can trust. They intuitively understand that cultures and companies with strong trust avoid the hidden costs that stem from everyone constantly trying to both cheat the system and avoid being cheated by others.
Blockchain, as it turns out, doesn’t herald the end of the need for trust. Most people will want laws and regulations to help make blockchain-based systems trustworthy.
Problems arise without trust
Bitcoin’s creator wrote in 2009 that “The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work.” With government-issued money, the public must trust central bankers and commercial banks to preserve economic stability and protect users’ privacy. The blockchain framework that bitcoin introduced was supposed to be a “trustless” alternative. Sometimes, though, it shouldn’t be trusted.
In 2016, for instance, someone exploited a flaw in the DAO, a decentralized application using the Ethereum blockchain, to withdraw about US$60 million worth of cryptocurrency. Fortunately, members of the Ethereum community trusted each other enough to adopt a radical solution: They created a new copy of the entire blockchain to reverse the theft. The process was slow and awkward, though, and almost failed.
A new type of investment, called initial coin offerings, further illustrates why blockchain-based activity still requires trust. Since 2017, blockchain-based startups have raised more than $20 billion by selling cryptocurrency tokens to supporters around the world. However, a substantial percentage of those companies were out-and-out frauds. In other cases, investors simply had no idea what they were investing in. The blockchain itself doesn’t provide the kind of disclosure that regulators require for traditional securities.
The initial coin offering faucet slowed to a trickle in the second half of 2018 as the predictable abuses of a “wild west” environment became clear. As regulators stepped in, the market shifted toward selling digital tokens under the same rules as stocks or other securities, despite the limits those rules impose.
The myth of decentralization
The other reason that regulators have a role to play is security. Blockchain networks themselves are typically very secure, and they eliminate the vulnerability of a single company controlling transactions. However, blockchains identify the owner of an account based on its cryptographic private key, a random-seeming string of numbers and letters. Steal the key, and you’ve got the money. Ten percent of initial coin offerings proceeds has already been stolen.
Most users acquire their cryptocurrency through an exchange such as Coinbase, which trades it for dollars or other traditional currencies. They also let the exchanges hold their private keys, because that makes transactions easier and more efficient. However, it also creates a point of vulnerability: If the exchange’s records are breached, the private keys aren’t secret anymore.
Some users hold their own keys, and there are new exchanges being developed that don’t require users to give them up. These will never be as convenient, though, because the burden of managing keys and keeping them safe falls on users. Regulation will be needed to protect consumers.
Government authorities will also have a role in restricting money laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal uses of cryptocurrencies. The more decentralized a system is, the harder it will be to identify a responsible party to police illicit conduct. Some users may not care, or may see that as a necessary cost of freedom. But networks optimized for criminals won’t ever achieve mainstream success among law-abiding citizens. Ordinary users will be scared off, regulated banks and financial services firms will be prohibited from interacting with them, and law enforcement will find ways to disrupt their activities.
Regulators around the world are working to balance the flexibility to transact in new ways through cryptocurrencies with appropriate safeguards. They aren’t all taking the same route, but that’s good. When the state of New York adopted rigid registration requirements called the BitLicense that few companies could meet, other jurisdictions saw the implementation problems and took different paths. Wyoming, for example, adopted a series of bills that clarify the legal status of cryptocurrencies while imposing reasonable protections. New York is now reevaluating the BitLicense, to avoid losing business activity.
If people trust blockchain systems, they’ll use them. That’s the only way they’ll see mass-market adoption. The jurisdictions with the best regulation – not the ones with the least – will attract activity. Like any technological system, blockchains combine software code and human activity. It’s not enough to trust the computers – which, after all, are built and programmed by people. For the technology to be used widely and wisely, there must be mechanisms to hold the humans accountable, too.
Kevin Werbach is a professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and the author of: The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust. MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Eerke Boiten, Professor of Cybersecurity, School of Computer Science and Informatics, De Montfort University: I agree with the problems pointed out with blockchain based systems here. However, they seem to be telling me that blockchain based systems cannot be trusted. This article doesn’t make me want to buy the book, as it gives no hint of what solution it might contain. Why would we tell people to trust blockchain based systems if they can’t be trusted? Why would regulation help? How does regulation sit with de-centralisation anyway?
Joel Moore, logged in via Google: I don’t understand why anything NEEDS to be done to make blockchains more trustworthy. Probably because I don’t understand why we even need blockchains. I only ever see them associated with cryptocurrencies which are primarily used for fabricating wealth via wild speculation (or outright theft and scams). As long as blockchains are mainly associated with that aspect of the online world I don’t feel any desire to prop them up officially.
Fairy-tale social media fantasies can demolish your confidence, but it’s not all bad
February 3, 2019
Authors: Eleftherios Soleas, PhD Candidate in Education, Queen’s University, Ontario. Jen McConnel
PhD Student in Education, Queen’s University, Queen’s University, Ontario.
Disclosure statement: Eleftherios Soleas receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada as well as generous support from Queen’s and its Faculty of Education. Jen McConnel receives funding from Queen’s University, specifically the Faculty of Education.
Partners: Queen’s University, Ontario provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA. Queen’s University, Ontario provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA-FR.
If social media was a person, you’d probably avoid them.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are loaded with pictures of people going to exotic places, looking like they are about to be on the cover of Vogue, and otherwise living a fairy-tale existence. And, like all fairy tales, these narratives feel a lot like fiction.
When you compare the “projected reality” to your lived experience, it would be easy to conclude that you do not measure up. Research shows that young adults are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon.
We have also studied this trend in graduate students, our next generation of scholars: they too, implicitly compare themselves to their peers, sometimes automatically. We’re socially trained to do this as shown by a litany of research studies exploring our relationships with other’s projected images.
These implicit comparisons can threaten your innate psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Not just one of them. ALL OF THEM. And such comparisons have shifted life online towards an unwinnable competition.
We are outnumbered and out-posted by other people and it can make us feel unequivocally terrible if we let it. It’s never been easier to be insecure about ourselves and our achievements thanks to the ever-present torrent of “updates” posted by mostly well-meaning people seeking opportunities for connection and validation.
Where did this come from?
Social media fills our days, but it hasn’t always. In fact, the birth of sites and apps like the micro-blogging platform Tumblr (2007), the bite-sized conversation builder Twitter (2006) and star-studded Instagram (2010) all arrived on the technology scene in tandem with the e-book revolution. And yet, in just over a decade, these tools have exploded across our browsers, into our phones and onto our self-perceptions.
People appear to be spending an hour a day on various social media apps, which doesn’t sound too rough if we assume everyone is only using one app. However, the tendency for younger users to embrace multiple social media apps (and to access their accounts multiple times a day) is increasing.
What that means for many of us is that we are spending hours each day connected and consuming content, from short tweets to beautifully staged #bookstagram images to painstakingly crafted selfies that sometimes make it seem like our friends are living the glamorous life, even when they’re waking up before dawn to take care of their little ones.
Social media presences are not inherently fake, but some people interacting in these spaces feel pressure to perform. And that’s not always bad!
As argued by Amy Cuddy, sometimes it’s helpful to pretend we are who we want to be in order to give ourselves the confidence to grow into our futures. There’s a rich history to “acting as if” in spiritual and growth-oriented spaces. But there’s a line between “fake it till you become it” and spending the afternoon shooting awkward photos to gain more “likes.”
Dark point of the soul
After conducting about 60 interviews and 2,500 surveys across two ongoing studies of post-secondary students, the findings indicate that being constantly compared to other people can demolish our confidence quickly.
For example, one first-year PhD student told us: “I feel like a failure because I don’t have any papers out and I haven’t won a major scholarship like the rest of my lab group.” A first-year student?!
Another commented: “All my peers are better than me, why am I even here?”
These are high-performing thinkers, and yet their confidence is being steamrolled in part because social media does not facilitate fair comparisons.
We wish these experiences were unique to certain contexts, but they are ubiquitous. We’ve become so used to seeing the world through social media that we give it false equivalence with our lived experience. We implicitly compare our lives against the sensation of social media and consider it a fair contention.
Of course, the mundane doesn’t measure up to social media. Social media posts need to be epic to be shared.
Hardly anyone posts a “meh” status update; our social media posts are typically at one extreme or another, good or bad, and we are left to compare our individual realities with an exceptional anecdote devoid of context. It’s all of the sugar, with none of the fibre.
It’s not all a pit of despair
Despite this relatively grim picture, the way we’re performing on social media isn’t entirely destructive. For starters, the awareness that we all seem to have about the inauthentic presentations of people’s lives that we consume online (and the painful comparisons that often follow) has also spawned subversively creative acts of satire.
‘It’s Like They Know Us’ posts stock photos with captions.
One example comes from “It’s Like They Know Us,” a blog/book/parenting subculture that’s built around taking stock images of families and providing captions that poke fun of the impossible standards these images perpetuate. And articles like the recent “How to Become Instagram Famous Experiment” remind us all that behind the carefully cultivated images rests a series of failed attempts and sometimes ridiculous efforts to capture the perfect shot.
There’s a perverse kind of creativity that our image-saturated web presence has spawned. And as often as we fall into the destructive cycle of comparing our messy, authentic lives to the snapshots of perfection that we see online, we just as often step back and laugh at how silly it all is.
Perhaps we’re merely playing along; isn’t it fun to think, just for a moment, that somewhere out there, someone is really living their best life? And maybe, just maybe, if we arrange our books in an artful composition or capture a stunning selfie on the 10th attempt, maybe we will be able to see the beauty that exists in each of our imperfectly messy, chaotic, authentic realities beyond the picture.
Maybe it’s good for us to “act as if,” as long as we remember that the content we share and engage with online is only a fraction of our real stories. Remember, even fairy tales have a grain of truth.