NASCAR has one of the toughest jobs in all of professional sports trying to make sure that everyone involved is respecting its rulebook. Unlike the stick and ball sports that use officials during games to catch anyone not adhering to the rules, NASCAR must uses an inspection process that takes place before and after each race.
The Sprint Cup garage area is a hard place to keep a secret and anytime one team or organization is dominating on the track, chances are that the rest of the garage is in NASCAR’s ear saying that the success is due to a little bending of the rules. NASCAR plays no favorites in what is commonly referred to as the “room of doom” when it inspects a car both before and after a race. It’s the same for everyone as the inspectors in charge of seeing that every team follows the rules take every infraction seriously regardless of how small it may seem.
NASCAR has been very busy this season enforcing the rules and has had to come down hard on several teams including those of Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. Both teams appealed the fines, point reductions and probation that were placed on them with Gibbs eventually having the majority of sanctions reduced or removed.
While some of NASCAR’s sanctions are eventually overturned by the appeals process, NASCAR still governs and penalizes teams when it feels they have gone beyond the parameters of the rulebook. Such was the case in Daytona when before the race inspectors found that several teams had machined down the roof-flap spacers to reduce weight.
It wasn’t an isolated case where one team was caught. In all, 31 teams were found to have the altered spacers in their roof-flaps. Sixteen of those cars were in the Sprint Cup Series and after that many failed inspection, NASCAR officials went back to the Nationwide garage and re-inspected those cars and found 15 cars also had altered spacers in their roof-flaps.
Every car involved was permitted to change the roof-flaps and continue racing at Daytona and as usual the governing body would wait until the following week to announce any penalties. Since the infractions involved a safety device on the car, most felt that there would be some type of penalty.
This time NASCAR decided that even though there was an infraction, it did not compromise the safety of the roof-flaps nor did it give any team a competitive edge on the racetrack. Instead of the expected sanctions, NASCAR announced no penalties would be handed down and that it would work with the roof-flap manufacturer to make sure that the best hardware is being used in the installation process.
The machining down of the spacer reduced the weight of the car by about four ounces, which doesn’t sound like much but it shows you to what extremes the teams will go to try and make their cars lighter. It also shows just how tough it is on NASCAR officials to make sure that nothing gets by them during inspection. It’s a classic game of cat and mouse that goes on at each and every stop on the schedule and sometimes like in this case it works out for everyone involved.
Richard Childress Racing may be facing the most difficult decision of any organization in the series as it decides whether or not to bring the No. 3 back into the sport. Childress owns the number that will forever be linked to Dale Earnhardt Sr., but it may be time to bring it back and it could be no better time than to bring it back with Childress’s grandson Austin Dillon at Daytona next season. The iconic number will bring back some great memories and it is a move that Childress and his family deserve. The number belongs back on the track and would do nothing but bring attention to all of the accomplishments that Earnhardt and Childress accomplished when the two were winning races and championships.
Event: Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5 mile quad-oval, 9 degrees of banking in the turns)
Date: July 28, 1 p.m.
Defending Champion: Jimmie Johnson