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Questions arise after yet another NASCAR tech inspection challenge

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?

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “Questions arise after yet another NASCAR tech inspection challenge”

  1. Charles Says:
    April 30th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Dont thinks it Nascar process as much as politics…Childress is not the freind to Middlebrook as was Hendrick..Dont get me wrong Nascar needs to improve inspection..but to be judged by a fair and balanced panel, not a team owner cronie…

    Would love to see if they carry this to Middlebrook in the end!

    Middlebrook needs to go..and be replace with someone that doesnt have such a ‘oneside resume” thats a credibilty issue for a lot of us!

    Its very easy to see Hendricks stragety in this one…he has advantage of a freind to give or add points so he could cheat more..knowing the others are more scared to go to the extreme or push the envolope as much…

    Bet other teams that have other brands and not a close freind like Hendrick is with Middlebrook teams such as Roush, Gibbs or Penske Dodge will not carry it to Middlebrook because he can ‘take points” away too!

  2. Cathy9955 Says:
    April 30th, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I agree. Well written. I am surprised more NASCAR reporters aren’t making similar comments about the inspection process….. I do respect HMS not commenting about the new charges….It would be hard to not say “I told ya”

  3. Sue Rarick Says:
    May 1st, 2012 at 6:02 am

    @Charles: Middlebrook has had nothing to do with the RCR/Turner case. He doesn’t even get a call till the final hearing.

    I tend to side with the teams like I did with the HMS car. Anyone that has spent any time in R&D or prototyping knows there is always a paper trail. And with 6 cars involved there would be a big trail, if the cars had been modified.

    Paper Trail: Would anyone want to send a drivr out on the track without knowing that the suspension bolts were installed? There is a record of that for each car. Subtle modifying of a bumper would leave a blank time in there someplace.

    The real problem though is credibility. Nascar has slowly built up some serious credibility issues. The HMS car, debris cautions, on-site officiating, and the list could go on.

  4. Charles Says:
    May 1st, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Sue Rarick

    Paper trail= means hiring someone who has no conflict of interest…I mean by that when like jury duty …state officals or persons receiving grants…have a no conflicts of interest policy with the persons getting them!

    Nascar needs a conflict of interest policy…repeat it is not fair for teams like Roush- Gibbs- Penske- Mike Walrip the majority of the teams Racing to have for face someone as baised as having a freind such as Middlebrook in this position…and there is a ‘papertrail to that one!

    Sue you are still in “parts and pieces” do you believe all the team owners who say..same car we raced last year…not me! Now if say Joe Gibbs said that..I would come near believe him..than some of the others!

    One one big one you still are misssing…its very easy for a team owner to appeal…to get ‘their Judge”….also I trust a ‘3 panel vertict”…. more than a onesided judge!

  5. 61 starliner Says:
    May 1st, 2012 at 9:39 am

    The credibility of NASCAR can’t be at stake. You can’t be in danger of loosing something you don’t have. NASCAR has no credibility.
    How is a team supposed to get their car ready if the templates can’t be trusted. If NASCAR doesn’t want to go by the templates, then they should throw away all the templates.
    The habit of saying ” we don’t like the way it looks” is pure and simple manipulating the racing to NASCAR’s marketable advantage, making sure each manufacturer has approximately the same amount of wins, to make the manufacturer & sponsors keep pumping into NASCAR’s pockets. This is why I haven’t watched a race in two years. I just follow the BS lines published by the media. That tells me everything I need to know about the WWE/NASCAR world