Opinion: NASCAR – When Is A Story Not A Story?

When NASCAR issue a warning it tends to make people sit up and take notice. No team or driver wants to fall foul of the rule makers, do they? So their press release yesterday saying Richard Childress Racing had been given a warning following the random inspection of the number 33 car which finished sixth at Richmond was worthy of closer scrutiny. Or was it?

After every race the winning car and one other, a “random”, are taken to the NASCAR’s research and development centre for a close inspection to check they comply with the rules. After the Richmond race on September 11th they chose for the random the sixth place finishing car of Clint Bowyer. It was this result that enabled Bowyer to squeeze into the twelfth and last place for The Chase to the championship joining his stablemates, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. That represented a significant turn around for RCR who failed to get any of their cars in to the 2009 Chase.

NASCAR still retain the car and, according to vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, on Tuesday RCR officials are going to review the car and NASCAR’s findings with the governing body.

So what is it that NASCAR found wrong with the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet? They found it “came close to failing inspection” and “was very close to its mandated tolerance levels“.

Is that not another way of saying they found it to be legal – just? With measurements they are either in or out, right? They are legal or illegal, aren’t they? There is no middle ground, surely. If part x needs to be in place y plus or minus 0.040″ and it is plus 0.0399″ it fits the criteria, doesn’t it?

There seems to be an implication that maybe RCR’s measuring isn’t quite as exact, or maybe the same, as NASCAR’s but they are the governing body, the rules are theirs, the criteria is set by them and the checking of compliance rests with them. Either the car meets the standards or it doesn’t.

Am I alone in thinking that a press release saying a team has built its cars to especially fine tolerances is actually telling the world that team are doing it exactly right? Or am I missing a subliminal message in this press release? Answers please to confused at…