Those individuals that sit on top of the pit boxes up and down a Sprint Cup pit road have always had the reputation of trying to be one step ahead of NASCAR’s rulebook. The sanctioning body prides itself in making sure that the so-called playing field stays even for everyone that competes at the Cup level, but history will tell you the job of policing the sport is a 24/7 endeavor.
Before the start of the 2014 season, NASCAR announced a new system of how it would penalize teams and individuals on any infractions or actions that the sanctioning body deemed detrimental to the sport. It was a very transparent sliding scale that spelled out the exact punishment for each violation.
The stiffest penalties were reserved for those that took it upon themselves to circumvent the rulebook when it came to the engine, fuel or tires. The rulebook contains no grey areas when it comes to these three major components of the car. NASCAR responds very quickly any time there is an attempt or rumored attempt to get around the rulebook concerning the cars, especially these three specific areas of the car.
Pit road is not only home to some of the smartest individuals in the sport, it is also home to many rumors that are quick to start up any time one team, organization or manufacturer seems to be enjoying what everyone else feels is an unfair advantage in the sport. The latest rumor to make its way up and down pit road is that certain teams have been drilling minute holes in the tires to bleed off air pressure as it builds throughout a tire run.
Word first surfaced that tire bleeding was a concern to NASCAR at the March 15 race at Phoenix when NASCAR conducted what it called a tire audit on the tires that were used by Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. There was nothing out of the ordinary with the outcome of that inspection, but NASCAR didn’t stop there with its inquiry as it stepped up its efforts the following week at California where it took the tires of Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Paul Mennard and Kevin Harvick.
Goodyear is not involved with the tire audit. It has taken tires in the past after a race to look at the tire’s durability, but NASCAR has said that this tire audit has nothing to do with the durability of the tires. The tires that were taken after California has been sent to a third party for evaluation but any results from the evaluation have yet to be announced.
NASCAR held a meeting with the crew chiefs before practice began on Friday at Martinsville to remind everyone about how it felt about any unapproved alterations or treatments to the tires. Tires work best when the air pressure is constant, which in return makes it easier to keep the car more balanced on the track. The balance of the car is what crew chiefs work on during every pit stop by changing the wedge, tire pressure and adjusting the track bar. If the tire pressure could somehow remain constant between pit stops, it is easy to see what an advantage that would be for a driver.
There is no doubt that there may be some crew chiefs holding their breath waiting for the findings from the latest tire audit, and for everyone else NASCAR’s swift response will have them thinking twice before altering those precious Goodyear Eagles. l
PIT NOTES: Besides the tire audit that is ongoing in the series, NASCAR announced before Martinsville that it was reducing by one the number of sets of tires that a team would have for selected race weekends. Only 10 sets were available to teams this past weekend, which may sound like a lot but barely 50 laps into the race most teams had already used two sets for the 500-lap event. NASCAR is trying to save the teams some money with the reduction as a set of tires carries a price tag of close to $1,900. Owners may like the reduction, but crew chiefs and drivers will always want to put a new set on any time the caution flag waves. l
Race Preview Event: Duck Commander 500 Track: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad oval, 24o of banking in the turns) Date: April 11, 7:30 p.m. TV: FOX Radio: PRN Defending Champion: Joey Logano