It seems there are two stories the media are focussed on this weekend, one is the return of the D-word, Danica Patrick, in the Nationwide Series, which will be the subject of another article, but the other story which just won’t go away is the penalties handed down to Clint Bowyer, Shane Wilson, Chad Haney and Richard Childress this week for rule violations in the number 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet.
The fall out from NASCAR‘s actions just refuses to go away.
On Wednesday evening, after NASCAR had made its announcement, Stock Car racing legend Darrell Waltrip said in a Tweet, “I believe the “box” is too tight and too small when you have to take a racecar back to the laboratory to determine there’s something wrong !” He has a point but surely the whole point of having rules governing dimensions of cars and their components is that by simple measurement you can establish that either the car complies with the regulations or it doesn’t. It’s legal or its not. It’s in or it’s out. If it means taking cars to NASCAR’s R&D centre to establish that then so be it.
Waltrip must know that if NASCAR gave a specification as being plus or minus 1/8 inch the sharpest teams would start taking that measurement to 0.126″ and, if they got away with that then to 0.128″, etc. For that reason NASCAR have to give tolerances as, say, plus or minus 0.125″ The finer the specified tolerance the less chance there is of bending the rules and the more likelihood that all cars should be running equal. Should be. The nature of this particular beast is that race car engineers will always try to stretch the interpretation of the rules to the absolute limit and, often, just beyond. The downside of having such precisely defined tolerances is that you will need very precise measuring devices to check them and it is just not practicable to take all those measuring devices to each track.
According to NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, the tolerance in question on the RCR #33 car was 0.070″ and was actually found to be 0.060″ beyond that, hence the penalties meted out.
Pemberton has also states that the numer 33 car that Richard Childress Racing intend using this weekend at the Monster Mile track at Dover was taken to the NASCAR R&D centre on Wednesday to check in advance of the meeting that it does comply to the regulations and passed as ok.
There is a delicious irony to this week’s main story that Pemberton is a friend of Clint Bowyer and the two of them have been planning a motorcycle trip together. Wouldn’t you want to eavesdrop on that conversation?
This morning Shane Wilson turned up at Dover for business as usual, just as he succinctly said he would in the Tweet, “Dover, here I come”. He can continue to work whilst the appeal process is being followed – according to Pemberton the appeal is likely to be next week – and so will be at trackside as Crew Chief to oversee Bowyer’s race. And that begs the question, how does Clint Bowyer drive this race? Does he flat out attack for the win to haul back as many of those deducted points as possible? Or does he drive conservatively protecting his second place in the standings should he win his appeal and get the points back? By Sunday evening we will know the answer.