By admin | June 5, 2008
By Richard Allen
If you are reading this article hoping to find answers you may be disappointed. While some things have been explained surrounding the harsh penalties levied against the Haas/CNC Racing team, still, many questions remain.
Prior to the running of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR confiscated the #66 and #70 cars because of what the sanctioning body called an improper mounting of the rear wing.
On Wednesday of last week, NASCAR announced the penalties the team would receive and they are among the strongest to have ever been handed down. Each team was docked 150 championship points. Both the crew chief and the car chief for each team have been suspended for six races. Each crew chief was fined $100,000. And, NASCAR is keeping the two confiscated cars for the time being.
The point penalties moved the #66 car driven by Scott Riggs to the precarious position of 34th at the time, just inside the Top 35 which is the limit of guaranteed starting positions. An early crash in Dover dropped the team outside the Top 35. The #70 car of Johnny Sauter among other drivers is now hopelessly outside the all important Top 35.
Robert â€œBootieâ€ Barker, crew chief of Riggsâ€™ car says the wing was mounted the same way it had been all season and it had passed every inspection previously performed. A thought echoed by Riggs.
With all of that being said, numerous questions beg to be answered.
First, why was the penalty so severe? This is one aspect that has been explained, at least by the Fox broadcast crew in Dover. Perhaps this can best be answered by looking at the intent. This was no accident. A piece had been fixed onto the back of the car so that when the deck lid was put down the fixed piece would force the deck lid up and thus the wing would be higher in the air.
The next questions, and perhaps the most important, that need answered have to do with the way in which the violation was discovered. NASCAR officials did not find the problem on their own. They were tipped off by a third party that something was amiss with the two machines.
So, if the violation was blatant enough to deserve such a severe penalty, why could race officials not find it themselves? Is there something wrong with the inspection process? Are NASCAR officials competent or do they have to rely on inside information to catch rule breakers?
The next questions are who told on the Haas/CNC team and why? Whoever gave the officials the inside tip must have had it in for this team specifically. Neither of the two cars has had a single Top 10 finish in 2008. It is not like some other competitor was trying to slow down Joe Gibbs Racing or Roush Fenway Racing. There could be any number of conspiracy theories which could be dreamed up as to why someone may have pointed an accusing finger at Haas/CNC, most of which would not be worth consideration.
Now, what happens next? First, NASCAR needs to look closely at its inspection process. If those cars were illegal and had been running that way all season then someone in the inspection line has not been doing a good job.
Next, even stiffer penalties may be on the way. This seems like a minor infraction considering the wing was only thousandths of an inch too high, so one has to wonder what the next penalty might be.
And perhaps the most intriguing question of all, will there be more tattling? Maybe that will be the next way of finding a competitive edge. Since there are so few ways to gain an edge with all the restrictions on the Car of Tomorrow then it may be that the best way to get ahead is to wait until someone else tries something and then turn them in. The NASCAR garage could resemble Stalinist Russia with people turning other people in to get ahead or even to save their own skin.
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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