By admin | April 30, 2012
By Richard Allen
For the second time in 2012, NASCAR is faced with a situation in which they have declared a car illegal upon pre-race inspection only to have that team(or teams) claim they have previously used the same car with no issues. The most recent dilemma came when six Nationwide Series cars were deemed to have “modified upper bumper covers” by the sanctioning body during technical inspections at the Richmond International Raceway.
The cars in question were those of Richard Childress Racing drivers Kevin Harvick, Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon as well as Turner Motorsports pilots James Buescher, Justin Allgaier and Kasey Kahne.
“It was the same car I’ve run twice already this season,” Sadler said of the finding. “It’s been through pre-race inspections and it’s been through post-race teardowns because we won two races with it. When we went through the tech line we got a sticker. We went through the tech line with no issues. Every single template fit the car and we got a sticker. Everybody was back at the trailer, working on the car and scaling it out when NASCAR came and said we had to cut the nose off our car.”
Prior to time trials for the Daytona 500, the Sprint Cup car intended for driver Jimmie Johnson was ruled to have unacceptable C-posts. The offending pieces were replaced at the track but the real drama came in the following days and weeks.
Like the RCR and Turner Nationwide teams, Hendrick Motorsports insisted that Johnson’s car had been previously used in the same condition and has passed multiple tech inspections.
Johnson’s crew chief and car chief, Chad Knaus and Ron Malec, were suspended with a fine and points penalty levied against the team as well. However, the points were given back and the suspensions were waived after HMS appealed to NASCAR’s Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook.
In the case of the Richmond inspections, the bumpers in question were taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, NC where series officials will further inspect and discuss the situation. Any penalties that might be forthcoming are expected to be announced on Tuesday.
However, there are some serious questions that must be considered in all of this.
First, are the teams lying when they say the cars they have presented are essentially the same as those that have already raced and passed other inspections? If this is the case then HMS got away with a major coup when their suspensions and points reductions were overturned.
Second, if the teams are being truthful and the cars have passed previous inspections in that same condition, then is there something wrong with NASCAR’s inspection process? Obviously, the answer is yes if indeed this is what has happened. Either illegal cars are getting through inspection on some occasions or overzealous inspectors are taking the rulebook too far on some occasions. Either way, there is an inconsistency somewhere if cars are passing sometimes then not on other occasions. And inconsistency is one of the worst possible scenarios for any rule enforcement body.
Third, will every future unfavorable ruling by NASCAR now be challenged since the worst parts of the HMS penalties were overturned? If so, expect teams to really push the envelope in terms of exploring the gray area of the rulebook.
The bottom line is that NASCAR’s inspection process is now at the center of controversy once again. And ultimately, the sanctioning body’s credibility is at stake. Should another ruling be overturned the question will then become, who is really setting the rules for this sport?
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