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Waltrip truck penalty is too little, too late

By admin | February 23, 2011

By Richard Allen

Michael Waltrip pulled his truck into victory lane at the Daytona International Speedway exactly ten years to the day from when he first pulled a Sprint Cup car into victory lane at that same facility. Trouble is, his Toyota Tundra was clearly in violation of the NASCAR rule which stipulates that the spoiler must maintain a certain minimum angle. He should have never been allowed to enter victory lane.

On Wednesday, NASCAR issued a $25,000 fine to crew chief Doug Howe and placed him on probation for the rest of the 2011 season. Owner Billy Ballew was docked 25 owner points for the infraction.

In the closing laps of Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series event the right half of Waltrip’s spoiler broke and was laying flat on the back of the truck’s rear deck. Video evidence shows that the spoiler was in this position for at least one full lap. As the trucks exited turn four coming to the checkered flag Waltrip swung out and passed Elliott Sadler, just beating him to the line.

NASCAR posts an official at the entrance of the garage area after each race for the specific purpose of checking spoiler angles. If cars or trucks are going to be allowed to fail that inspection but keep the position in which they finished what is the point of having the official, or the rule for that matter?

I have long maintained that there should not be a mandated spoiler angle rule, only a rule for the size and shape of the piece. Teams should be allowed to race with the rear blade at whatever angle they like. However, there is a rule, at least we’ve been told there is a rule.

Since a scoring debacle that occurred in Atlanta in 1978, NASCAR has made it their policy to have declared a winner for each race as quickly as possible and to stick with that winner. There have been numerous instances in which cars have been found to be out of compliance in post-race inspections which have resulted in fines and points reductions. However, this was not a case in which the truck was deemed outside the rule book hours or even days later. This violation was clearly evident even with the machines running at full speed.

The team in question says this was an honest mistake. That is almost certainly true. However, intent is not the issue. It is the obligation of each team to see to it that its vehicles are capable of passing pre and post race inspections.

Consistent inconsistency has been one of the most common complaints by fans and media against NASCAR in regard to the enforcement of its rules. They had a chance to get an easy one right in this instance and missed.

Some have argued that because this was the tenth anniversary of Waltrip’s first Daytona 500 win and at the same time the tenth anniversary of the passing of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. the story was too good to be ruined by a disqualification. If NASCAR is going to make its rulings based on sentiment rather than the rule book, the rule book might as well be placed in the trash can.

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19 Responses to “Waltrip truck penalty is too little, too late”

  1. tim Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Richard: You clearly do not understand the rule nor have you followed nascar for very long. If your vehicle has been damaged in an altrication, then pretty much all specs and measurements are out the window. They won’t even measure the spoiler if the vehicle has a smashed up decklid. This was not the case for the 15’s team. their problems was a simple parts failure, which is the responsibility of the team. The action that nascar took in this instance (fine and points penalty) is consistant with every race infraction that I’m aware of. When was the last time that they took a win away from a driver because of a car spec infraction? They don’t do it. The Rules don’t say they should do it. They followed the rules.
    If you want to argue a point, argue that they should change the rules to whatever it is that you think should be done, but don’t try and say that this was in inconsistent ruling. If they had have disqualified the 15, now that would have been without presidence and very inconsistant with Nascar’s past rulings and judgements.
    Personally, I think the fine and penalty route is the right way to go, but not quite big enough this time, but, it is the first infraction of the season. If history is any indicator, the next infraction of a similar nature will incurr a larger “reward”

  2. Richard Allen Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Then expect to start seeing lots of ‘engineered failures’ if that’s the case. And I’ve been around for a while.

  3. Charles Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 7:59 am


    I agree with you, what some teams get called for “parts failure”, and others for “intent or detrimental” to racing!

    If Nascar was on its job, it would have “black flaged” Waltrip as soon as his spoilier broke! They didnt seem to have a problem doing it with David Ragan and I mean fast!

    Using the term ‘ENGINEERED FAILURES” to cover up a illegal part is a joke!! Most of the time engineered parts failures if they are real cause you to lose a race, lets see fuel pump, rear end, motor blown etc! I have questions when engineered failures cause one to win!!!!!

    Would love to have seen “how consistent” Nascars reaction would be if was CARL LONG’s truck instead of Waltrips!

  4. Justin Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Everyone likes a good conspiracy, but, really??? The guys back in the shop built Waltrip’s truck, and put splitter braces on one side of the truck that would all break at the same time, with 2 laps to go….. If those guys are THAT good, that they could manufacture a part to break at exactly the right time, they need to be building space shuttles, not stock cars (trucks)…….

    Im not even going to get into the argument of “did it help or hinder”, I just cant get over the fact that NASCAR fans will find a conspiracy in anything. I have heard it ALL from NASCAR fans, LMFAO. Did you know that Waltrip was forced to leave DEI because he was sleeping with Teresa? LMFAO. Did you know that NASCAR fixes it so Jr wins meaningless NNS races (why not fix it so he wins some races that actually matter?)?

    I dont know what the answer is, but until someone can prove otherwise, I just cant buy the idea that the guys in the shop can manufacture parts that look just like all the other parts, BUT, they will fail at the perfect time to gain an advantage. The guys in the shop just knew Waltrip was going to be running 2nd with 1 lap to go, so making his spoiler braces break at that exact moment was going to be the answer……hahahahahaha

  5. madhat Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 9:17 am

    This is a head scratcher for sure. I have seen countless cars in the past finish races with half the car missing with out an issue, but they fine Waltrip because his spoiler breaks during a race that requires other drivers to run their cars into the back of another drivers car is crazy. Isn’t possible that the damage to the spolier was caused by the two car tango and not some rigged system that caused it to break at the perfect moment. Also, who says it’s an advantage to run with out downforce into a turn? This is Nascar at it’s worst. Also, great system haveing Trevor haveing no points, or Tony, or Micheal, that really solved that problem.

  6. Richard Allen Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I’m not suggesting there is any conspiracy in this case. I believe the part just broke. My contention is that there is no point in having a post race inspection if teams are going to be allowed to keep wins, even if their car doesn’t meet specs.

    However, there is a reason why NASCAR fans are so willing to believe conspiracy theories. There are so many examples of inconsistent rulings. Since they just left a plate track take the yellow line rule for example. Some drivers have won races after passing below the yellow line and others have had wins taken away.

  7. Kevin Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I have to agree with Tim. I know of no other incident where the win was taken from a competitor due to a parts failure. If anyone can point out incidents where this has happened in a NASCAR sanctioned event, I would love to hear them. The points & fine to the team and crew chief work within the rules and previous prescident.
    I do agree with you though Rich, there is too much inconsistency in the rulings that NASCAR makes and I would love to see it shored up. Though I don’t know I would go so far as to indicate that the calls that are made are a result of favouritism or sentiment. It does seem odd to me that NASCAR has the technology to determine a car being out of spec by the thickness of a quarter, or which cars bumper was 2 inches in front of the other not at the start finish line, but at any point on the track at the exact second the caution flew, but can’t call the rules by the book. If all you are asking for is consistency I am with you 100%. If you are arguing that the call on Waltrips truck was inconsistent with previous rulings, as I said, I’d love to know which ones, because I don’t believe that it was.

  8. Richard Allen Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 9:33 am

    The call on Waltrip’s truck was not necessarily inconsistent with previous rulings because there have been so few incidents where it was so obvious. In the Bowyer case of last year the car not conforming was not found until it was taken back to the R&D Center.

    In this case it could be seen with the naked eye, clearly. Again, why bother with a post race inspection if wins are going to be allowed to stand?

    NASCAR’s fine and points penalty is an admission that the truck did not conform to the rules. If they are going to buy failures as an excuse then they can’t fine for it.

  9. James Eason Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Come on NASCAR had plenty of time to black flag the 15.
    They have thrown the black flag for a lot less than this.
    Keep in mind this is a NASCAR feel good story.

  10. Jesse Hopper Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I don’t think people get it, Nascar sold out to Toyota a long time ago. Almost all the announcers are with them, I wonder what Mike Joy, Rick Allen and John Roberts drive because everyone else in on the Toyota pay roll except Kyle.

  11. mrclause Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Maybe it’s the right time for NASCAR to end this silliness and make the rule book the determining factor. Stop these stupid fines for prerace inspections, just get the car right or you don’t race. If you can’t pass post race inspections then games over, you are DQ’d.

    With today’s information availability it won’t be days being told the winner was illegal and DQ’d and so and so is declared the winner. If they can find Bowyer’s measurement discrepancy at the track, they can find anything.

    Black and white, cut and dried. Simply implement the KISS method and the idea that legal wins, illegal doesn’t.

    What other series doesn’t toss a win or position if the car is found not legal? Get the gray out of the rule book and decision making.

  12. Ruckus Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I thought the spoiler was a solid piece of metal. Is that correct?

    If so I don’t understand how it could break like that without other very significant body damage. Based on pictures and video from the last lap of the race and victory lane, it did not appear that MW’s truck was that obviously damaged other than the spoiler. Dustin Long posted a great shot on Twitter. Other than the spoiler hanging down the truck looks unscratched.

  13. Brian M Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    This is what NassCar should do.

    If someone is fails post race inspection let them keep there position they came in or keep the win but take away all the points.

    They get no points but get the recognition of the win and the purse.

  14. Steve Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Funny I haven’t seen anything on any of the Fox webpages on this penalty. Let’s here DW’s take since they very clearly avoided this issue during the coverage.

    Points and probation mean nothing. He didn’t get any points anyway and they are not running a full season. I’m sure part of the fine was the Waltrip has to do more shilling of the sport, so we should be seeing more of him in the future

    Dollars to donuts, the Speed broadcast on Friday night will all but ignore this on their broadcast, since Michael is joining them and they were all cheerleading for him at the end of the race.

    My opinion on the spoiler. Should have been black flagged immediately and the win taken away. It was pretty cut and dried it was a rules violation (intent or not). But of course Nascar would never do that given the circumstances of the win and when.

  15. Brooks Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    It’s rare, but NASCAR has taken away wins before after the race. In 1992, jeff burton won a busch race but was later disqualified for using a illegal part. In 1999, Mike Skinner won at Atlanta, but was found to have used an illegal cylinder head, and was disqualified. He got the win back when his team appealed and won that appeal. If missing part of the spoiler is a penalty and results in a black flag in the first 98 laps of a race, why isn’t it that way for the final 2 laps of a race?

  16. steven Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    It seems to me that the only reason Waltrip passed Sadler was because his spoiler wasn’t in spec. I think he should have been disqualified for that reason. I haven’t seem a happier loser than Elliot since Castroneves lost to Danica in Japan.

  17. X-Na$car fan Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    The really bad part of this is they didn’t do ANYTHING to Mickey. When a team is caught with an infraction the owner & driver get fined & dock but not good ol Mickey.

  18. allen caldwell Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Take a look at the wreck which brought out the last red flag….Trucks bouncing off the wall/hitting each other and I didn’t see any Spoilers falling off or down….Good ole DW talked to Mickie sitting there during red flag…not a mention of any trouble….Have watch the last laps many times…Spoiler up at white flag….down at Checkers…this leaves only one possibility….a darn sea gull, which just drank some “jet fuel” ran into Mikie’s truck on last lap going into turn three and knocked the spoiler down…this makes more sense than “equipment failure”…..

  19. Chris Says:
    April 17th, 2011 at 12:57 am

    The K&N Pro East Series has disqualified the “winner” and stripped the win from them quite a few times in the past couple years. From what I saw, the spoiler was broke for a full lap. I highly doubt he cheated, I mean, the timing of when it broke was so precise that it seems it could have only been done by a manual switch or button that the driver would have to engage. I just think it was unfortunate timing and just strange, something we’ll never see again. I don’t think that if NASCAR clearly sees the winning car crossing the finish line with a rules / parts infraction that the winning car should be able to retain his win. If it was anywhere between lap 1 and 98 (of a 100 lap race) and it happened, NASCAR would have issued a black flag to the driver in violation and he would have to bring the car to the attention of his crew to get it in proper (legal) condition before returning to the event. If they came back and won, good for them.