This past weekend at Dover International Speedway, Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet once again failed pre-race inspection.
Despite the penalty of starting at the rear, Elliott dutifully drove back up through the field to score a top-four finish..
We’ve seen other teams in recent years become serial offenders for failing pre-race inspection, such as Martin Truex Jr.‘s string of pre-race tech woes.
Have we reached the point where NASCAR needs to take harsher action against teams that are routinely being sent to the rear, only to motor back up through the field in short order? This week, Brad Harrison and Joy Tomlinson dive into the topic in our latest installment of 2-Headed Monster.
Spare The Fine, Spoil The Child
Simply put, it’s become utterly embarrassing. It’s almost like a weekly drinking game – take a shot every morning of the race when you read that, “The No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet of Chase Elliott has failed inspection multiple times and will start the race from the rear of the field.”
Hopefully, none of you readers actually do that. Otherwise, you’d have alcohol poisoning by now.
The point is this: It has devolved into a normalized occurrence, happening on a near-weekly basis, or at least that what it feels like, for Elliott’s car to flunk pre-race inspection.
Look, I understand a huge part of this sport is ingenuity, and crew chiefs such as Alan Gustafson should be allowed to showcase their craft. But when these inspection failures happen on a regular basis, it results in a flaunting of the rules and the team thumbing its nose at NASCAR. It makes a mockery of the inspection process. You could even argue that Elliott’s title-winning victory last fall in Phoenix should be shrouded in controversy since Elliott started that race from the rear of the field.
The result then was the same as it was this past Sunday and so many other races. The light tap on the wrist from NASCAR did absolutely nothing to deter the No. 9 team, and it has done little to affect other teams, as well.
Fair or not, the No. 9 has become the poster child for going all Judas Priest during pre-race inspection and “Breaking The Law.”
Clearly, dropping a team to the rear of the field has made little impact, particularly when the top-tier cars are working their way to the front by the first stage break. With teams having so many resources to pull from, even sitting a crew chief does little, particularly with an organization that has the depth of talent such as HMS.
That’s why a heavier hand from NASCAR is needed, something such as perhaps forcing a multiple pre-race inspection offender to start the second stage from the rear of the field.
NASCAR’s current approach clearly is not working. It’s time for something more deliberate. – Brad Harrison
Are We Really Complaining about Consistency?
NASCAR shouldn’t have stiffer penalties for failing pre-race technical inspection – at least not right now.
For one, there’s no practice or qualifying at many tracks, and the ones that do have these sessions are very limited. Teams don’t have as much time to work on the cars at the racetrack, so why should they get a more severe punishment? What other penalties could NASCAR hand out that’s worse than what it already has? Crew chief suspended and sent home for the day? A monetary fine? Officials do that already; if a car fails twice, it will drop to the rear on the pace laps. Three failures adds on a loss of crew member and a pass-through, while four results in an L1 penalty; a fine, loss of points and crew member suspended for a set number of races.
That seems severe enough to me.
Also, NASCAR has been fairly consistent this year when it comes to infractions incurring before the Cup races. The driver in question, Elliott, had two events (Atlanta Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway) where he had to go to the back due to inspection failures. Additionally, the No. 9 team had unapproved adjustments at Darlington Raceway and Phoenix Raceway. So it’s not like he failed at four races, which is what the question is implying.
On the other hand, two teams have had more severe penalties earlier this year. Daniel Suarez’s crew chief was ejected and the team was docked 10 driver and owner points after officials found added ballast on the car at Martinsville Speedway. Then at Atlanta, Timmy Hill had to pass through pit road at the start of the race after failing three times; his crew chief was ejected as well. I don’t think we’d confuse the caliber of car between Hill and the defending Cup Series champion, but the penalties feel like they fit the infraction thus far.
These penalties seem rough but they have been standardized for all teams. In a time when some question NASCAR’s consistency on what happens during the race, pre-race inspection needs the stability, particularly over the past year with no practice and cars come prepped to race from the shop floor.
Unless something big is discovered during tech that requires a harsher penalty after the first round, NASCAR should continue its policy, at least until practice and qualifying returns on a regular basis. – Joy Tomlinson