I am normally much more timely on these articles than this, and had actually toyed with the idea of scrapping this one completely to move to something more pressing. But, once I re-read what I had started writing I got fired up about the subject again and decided that this article deserved to be posted and hopefully read.
Let me get this straight, NASCAR decided that it was “O.K.” for teams to play with the spacers, because they deemed that the teams didn’t get a “performance” gain? So if I were Chad Knaus and I arbitrarily decided that it was ok to shave some weight off of the “Newman” bar to relocate that weight to a lower section of the car, it would be ok? The structural integrity of the part be damned? When coupled with the fact that there were so many teams to be in violation of the rule, gives us in the media plenty of fonder to spin this story in plenty of directions.
This is the spin I personally am going to take on this, when NASCAR decides to allow teams, crew/car chiefs to decide that a part that they purchase from an outside vendor to be used as they deem fit, it is a VERY slippery slope that NASCAR is allowing to be used. My second point is simply this, did NASCAR decide to not move forward with penalties because there were too many teams to be worth the effort of penalizing and then going through the appeals process?
Let’s stop and think about this for a moment, like I mentioned above; if a team decides to simply “shave” a few grams or ounces off of a component that is part of the structural reliability of the car who is to say that it will simply stop with the roof flaps?
The “Newman” bar is so named because of the numerous times that Ryan Newman has flipped over at the restrictor plate tracks and NASCAR deemed that supporting the cockpit with this bar would help to ensure the safety of the driver. Now I do not know the exact weight and component break down of this piece, and let’s face it neither does anyone outside the NASCAR garage since as of right now the NASCAR rulebook is clouded in more mystery than the location of the Holy Grail, or for that matter the actual launch codes for the United States missile defense system. But suffice it to say that it isn’t exactly light, and as we all know that any weight that you can move from the top part of the car and can place on a lower portion of the car is a good thing. Since moving the weight lower improves the overall performance and handling of the car.
So for the sake of argument let’s say that some crew/car chief decides that they could gain some slight advantage by shaving just the slightest little bit from this “Newman bar,” then somehow this information “leaks” out and a few more crew/car chiefs decide to do the same thing. Suddenly we have a garage with let’s say five to ten teams that have done the exact same thing, Does NASCAR again step in and say, “Well since there was no ‘technical’ advantage gained there won’t be any fines in this instance.”
Let’s continue to break down the above scenario thusly, if, for the sake of argument, Matt Borland decided that by shaving a few ounces off of the “Newman bar” that he could gain no performance enhancement. But instead gained a weight advantage by being able to move a few extra ounces lower on the car, would this be a punishable offense? Let’s go reductio ad absurdumon (the process of taking an argument to the worse possible conclusion, then criticizing the outcome of said argument.) this, if Matt Borland did shave the ounces. Again, building upon Newman’s penchant for flipping his car at a restrictor plate track; Newman flips his car. The shaved ounces on the bar that is supposed to secure the integrity of the cockpit of the car leads to a structural failure and Newman is killed in the wreck, gods forbid of course. Then what happens? Would there be a huge outcry because of yet another death in racing? Would Matt be ultimately tried for manslaughter since he put Newman in an unsafe car?
I know that you are thinking that I am just being an extremist on this, that there is no way that shaving ounces and grams off of an item will lead to a complete parts failure. Please for a moment stop and think about the number of times that we have heard of someone saying that they were trying “experimental” components in various areas of the car and how it has led to a catastrophic failure of a component leading to devastating results for not only car and team, but also potentially fans as well.
Again my main argument on this is rather simple. NASCAR has opened the door for the potential abuse of this inaction. What do I feel should have happened in the aftermath of “roof flapgate?” Probation should have been handed out to any team/crew chief not already on probation. For teams that were already on probation, then fines and suspensions needed to be handed out to show the seriousness of messing with anything on the car. Let alone a component on the car that is there to protect not only the driver but the fans as well. (Do I really need to make an argument for keeping cars on the track after the Nationwide Series race at Daytona?) I’m not saying that the penalties needed to be extravagant or over the top; but something needed to be levied against these teams to send a message.
For teams that were already on probation, a simple three to five point penalty would have been enough to grab the attention of every team in the garage area. Suspension to the car and crew chief of at least one week would have also had the same effect, especially as we get closer to the Chase.
My honest feeling on this is that NASCAR has taken a beating in the appeals process in recent years, didn’t want to get yet another black eye for penalties/sanctions and simply decided to take the path of less resistance and therefore simply let this incident “slide by” hoping that once Danica took out Stenhouse during a race, ( oh wait she already did that) that the media would move onto that topic and forget that they (NASCAR) are allowing people to play with the safety of not only the drivers but of the fans as well. If they are going to do that then why even bother with the rest of the inspection process?