By admin | May 25, 2008
By Richard Allen
NASCAR started using its Car of Tomorrow in 2007. Immediately, the sanctioning body showed that it would tolerate no “adjustments” to its new car. Major penalties and fines were handed down to any and all rule violators.
It did not seem to matter who it was or what had been done. Those who doctored their cars were hammered. The teams of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. each lost points, lost money and lost crew chiefs for extended periods of time in the new car’s first year.
This year, Carl Edwards’ team has also incurred NASCAR’s wrath in a similar way.
So, it is safe to say that any team who brings a Car of Tomorrow to the track that is even slightly outside the framework of the rules is bound to be hit and hit hard by the sport’s overseers, right?
Well, apparently not. A few weeks ago cars started showing up slightly askew, to say the least. Jeff Gordon complained that some cars were so far out of alignment that they would not roll onto the scale to be weighed. However, nothing was really done about it until after last week’s All Star Race when cars were brought to the track so misaligned that it was even obvious by looking at them on television. At that point NASCAR issued a statement that cars needed to be brought back into line.
Why was the first team that brought such a car to the track not penalized? Which infractions are worthy of a penalty and which are not?
NASCAR seems to be showing that same consistent inconsistency which has drawn the ire of competitors and fans alike in the past.
During pre race preparations for the Coca-Cola 600 the Haas/CNC team had both of its cars confiscated by NASCAR for improper mounting of the rear wing. So, it appears as though the heavy handed punishing of cars outside the approved parameters has returned.
There is nothing wrong with dealing severely with those who break the rules if that is the precedent to have been set. However, a sanctioning body can not pick and choose the violations to be penalized. If one violation is going to be penalized then all should be. Otherwise, teams will be confused as to what they are allowed to do.
There is no doubt the Car of Tomorrow needs help on the 1½ mile tracks. For that matter the previous car did too, which is why it was so twisted out of shape by the time it finished its tenure as NASCAR’s primary vehicle.
What NASCAR needs to do is quit handing teams so many parts that are put on the car. Teams need to have more leeway in setting the cars up. NASCAR needs to have fewer rules but rules that are clear and enforced consistently every time.
If NASCAR wants to have better racing they need to let the people who know the most about making cars work, the race teams, set them up. They also need to decide what they are going to do about rule violations, let everyone know what that is and stick to it.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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