Backroom dealings, abuses of power and rewriting rules to best serve its interests have come to define Chicago politics. And with the extraordinary decision to add Jeff Gordon to the Chase for the Sprint Cup these traits are now associated with NASCAR, fittingly just outside of Chicago's city limits.
And it wasn't just that NASCAR CEO Brian France took the unprecedented step of making Gordon the 13th driver in the Chase, it was how the process played out.
As practice began for the opening event of NASCAR's 10-race Chase Friday at Chicagoland Speedway, there was still uncertainty over which drivers would in fact be racing for the championship.
Would NASCAR remove Joey Logano due to allegations Penske Racing had struck a deal providing Logano a free position to aid his efforts to make the Chase? And if impropriety was found, would Logano suffer the same fate as Martin Truex Jr., who was booted out of the Chase earlier in the week because of the shenanigans of Michael Waltrip Racing?
These were the questions hanging over the garage for much of Friday. And yet no definitive word from NASCAR, which repeatedly told assembled reporters outside the NASCAR hauler that nothing was imminent. It wasn't until 3 p.m. local time that Brian France finally issued his decree that Gordon would be added as the 13th driver to the Chase.
For a sport that wants to be viewed by the casual fan in the same light as the NFL or the NBA, this wasn't the way to proceed. In no sport but NASCAR are the playoff participants set, only for the league to announce days later, that it was re-altering the field.
Although Gordon may be deserving of a Chase spot because of the over-the-top maneuvering that transpired at Richmond, Friday's decision sets a precedent that NASCAR would have been wise to avoid.
What happens the next time a driver doesn't make the Chase because of something unseemly beyond his or her control? The standard set Friday dictates that NASCAR has to make a special exemption, lest it be accused of playing favorites.
Whether it's right or wrong, fair or unfair, it's hard not to think that if Gordon wasn't a four-time champion who happens to be one of the sport's most popular drivers with a legion of supporters, NASCAR would have simply said, Sorry, we made a mistake but there's no going back.
"I think that, yes, the integrity of the sport has been put at question," Gordon said following his inclusion into the Chase. "I think we have one of the greatest sports that exists. To see our integrity get questioned is very upsetting to me, and I think we, along with NASCAR, have to solve this."
That opportunity to address the numerous wrongs from this past week will come Saturday when NASCAR will hold a closed doors meeting with drivers, crew chiefs and team owners.
It is expected to be a meeting where officials lambaste teams for the mess they have played a role in creating. And leave no doubt, it isn't just the NASCAR power brokers who created this mess that transformed the sport to WWE on wheels.
"I'm excited about that meeting tomorrow," Gordon said. "Even though I think we're going to get reprimanded a little bit because it doesn't all lie on NASCAR. We all have a responsibility in this.
"I wish it had not happened under these circumstances. I really do wish we could have come to this conclusion sooner, but sometimes that's just not the case. But we are going to move forward and we are going to be a better sport [Saturday] and on Sunday and in the future because of these circumstances."
Gordon's prediction that NASCAR will be better off may prove to be true in the long-run.
But in the present, it's obvious to all except those making the decisions that the credibility of NASCAR is at an all-time low. The only thing missing from the circus NASCAR has become is a clown making balloon animals. And come Sunday, don't be surprised if Bozo is the 14th driver in the Chase.