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2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Address Pre-Race Inspection Failures with Harsher Penalties?

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.

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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

 

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Shawn

Equally troubling is the CONSISTENT lug nut violations after EVERY race! Letting a team keep their finishing position after having been found in violation, and simply fining the crew chief $10,000, which everyone KNOWS is paid by the team owner, is a joke! This is evident in the REPEAT violations w/o regard to any consequences! Start stripping points and positions and watch how much MORE attention is paid to this. Albeit a moot point w/Next Gen car having a knock off wheel, it should STILL be addressed for the remainder of this season! How many time have you seen a winner determined by the “Money stop” when he got out of the pit ahead of everyone else only to find in post race inspection they had a lug nut missing or loose? How much longer would they have been pitting if they KNEW they could lose a win for that violation??

Jill P

It’s the same teams / organizations doing it every week with either pre-race inspections or post-race lug nut violations. They’ll do it as long as it’s to their advantage. I like the idea of docking positions or points or even wins, but I see nothing ever being done about it.

Joshua Farmer

Ridiculous comment. Throughout the history of NASCAR people push the envelope. Have you been to a race live? I don’t want to another 800 rules added. Inspection is just to determine the car is within guidelines. Where is our practice and 2 round qualifying? Humans make HUMAN errors and there should not be a worse penalty. On a personal note, I imagine I have been a NASCAR fan longer than you’ve lived. No Formula-1 please. If a driver is penalized to the back of the grid and drives back up…that shows skill and not an overly regulated sport; please stare at you cellphone more instead of watching the race. Hehe.

Tom B

Pre-race inspection is a joke. Cars have left pre-race inspection without working brakes and packing material in front of the radiator. And that is just what was made public by the media reports. Who knows what other safety issues are over looked by pre-race inspections? It is a convenient way to send some cars to the rear of the field.

Bill B

Perhaps there should be a threshold each season. In a given season you are allowed to fail pre-race inspection 10 times and only receive a start at the rear penalty. Once you pass that threshold it’s a 1 lap penalty. After 20 times a 2 lap penalty, etc..
It’s a weekly cat and mouse game that shouldn’t be part of the culture. Sure, we want innovation and pushing the boundaries, but not every week to the point of trying to get one by the inspection process.

Mike

Always hendrick and jesus joes cars. Nice to know penske cars normally run up front without violations that make them start in the back. But that is the way society is now days get by with what you can and its not illegal unless you get caught then lie and deny

Bill B

I agree with you about “the way society is now days” but NASCAR has been that “way” since it started. If anything there are less shenanigans now than there have ever been.

Marc

That’s an interesting way to think of Mr. Gibbs, one that I hadn’t contemplated. There are people who see themselves and try to live their lives as moral, ethical people, both religious people and not religious people. I give Joe Gibbs the benefit of the doubt that he is sincere in his beliefs and wish to lead a moral life. I have no reason to think otherwise. That leads me to conclude that he views pre- and post-race penalties the way he viewed penalties on the football field: as a part of the game. And he is not alone in this view. It’s a little different that the “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” creed. It’s more that, in order to succeed in racing, one must be as close to the limits in the rules as possible. Anything else is giving away speed or time to the competition while penalties are how the sanctioning body keeps everyone within the rules. Sure, there are some things that are either so blatant or dangerous that they should never be done intentionally and the penalties for them should be appropriately severe. We see it for car height: disqualification. But, these pre-race inspection and post-race lugnut penalties are just a part of the game. If they weren’t, there’d be DQs and suspension for a lot less.

Jo

Shawn, I guess you don’t remember that Joey Logano has been the only Cup driver to be stripped of a win after failing Post-Race inspection while driving for Penske. Everybody cheats, some teams are better at getting away with it.

Jo

Sorry, that comment was directed to MIKE!

Robert

That’s not true. Kevin Harvick had his win in Las Vegas 2018 taken away. Well, in a matter of speaking. They took his points away, including chase bonus points, although he was allowed to keep his win.

DoninAjax

Let’s say there are worthwhile penalties for pre-event or post-event inspection failures. I guarantee certain teams will never get penalized again and the reason won’t be because they suddenly get legal.

Lnj

How about a 1 lap penalty for the first race, 2 laps for the second, and so on.

Lnj

And maybe do it team wide.

Tim

Stop with the pre race inspections, they have to go thru inspections to qualify, then race day. 1 has to go. Too many inspections.

Dav_Daddy

That’s my issue. It’s the same teams every week with this stuff. When was the last time any Penske car got a penalty? Brad would have 2 titles if they cheated half as much as the rest of the garage. That’s probably why he’s bailing to Roush.

On the other hand the lug nut thing seems kinda ridiculous. Was the wheel loose? Yes or no? If yes then there’s the penalty, if no then no blood no foul.

gbvette62

It’s pretty funny to see both you, and Mike further up, holding up Penske Racing as some kind of virtuous organization. You must not know much of the history of Penske racing. Penske was famous for flaunting the rules, or as his great driver Mark Donohue liked to call it, looking for the “unfair advantage”. Some of what they did was innovative, but much of it was outright cheating. I’m sure they’re still pushing the rules, you have to to survive in racing.

I’m not attacking Penske here, while I’m not a fan of any of his Cup drivers, I’ve always been a fan of Roger Penske, Mark Donohue, Rick Mears, Will Power, Helio Castro Neves, and other Penske drivers, as well as Penske racing, especially the Indy and sports car operations.

Jo

Dav_Daddy, you seem to have forgotten that Joey Logano (while driving for Penske) has been the only Cup driver to be stripped of a win due to failing post-race inspection. Some teams are simply better at hiding their cheating ways. Everybody tries to get an edge.

Robert

Actually he wants to own a team and Roush offered him an ownership stake. Brad is getting older and retirement is coming I’d say 5 years or so. So in essence he has to look to the future. Lot’s of drivers are doing this. Kyle Busch motorsports comes to mind among others.

John Garrett

Why have a pre race inspection? With the charter system, teams are guaranteed a starting position.

eddo

Isn’t the point of pre-race inspection to make sure all the teams are equal? If so, who cares how many times it takes a team to pass pre-race inspection. If anything, it wastes the teams time of having to go back through multiple times. It doesn’t hurt anyone else, as long as the car is deemed legal before the race starts. If it takes enough times to get legal, then the car shouldn’t start the race until it is legal- even if that means 15 laps in.

Unless the teams have access to the NASCAR inspection tunnel thing, and an inspector at their disposal, how can they be expected to pass everything when they arrive at the track? (and perhaps they do have access to those things, I am not sure.)

Seems silly to me to punish for pre-race inspection failures. Post race- absolutely. Pre race, not so much

Bill B

I think the purpose is as a deterrent to keep teams from trying all kinds of things just to see if they can get it through. Everyone knows what is legal and what isn’t. I suppose you are inferring that if something is illegal that it will be caught post race, but only a handful of cars are inspected after, all are inspected before. I would agree with you if all cars were inspected after the race, then the guy that finished 16th or 29th with an illegal car will suffer the same consequence as the guy that won with an illegal car. In fact, it would be interesting to see what would happen if that were the case. If 20 cars all got penalized at the end of a race it wouldn’t be a good look for the sport. The entire outcome of the race would be in flux until Tuesday morning.

Robert

What about the cars that crash out like at Daytona and Talladega. Obviously wrecked cars can’t pass body inspection. So that comment seems like it makes little sense However I agree. All cars should be torn down post race like in the 90s. Now it’s the winner, 2nd place and one random that get full tear down but they don’t do it at the track.

Bill B

Cars with that much damage usually finish at the bottom. I don’t think there is a need to inspect the 36th place car. If they were cheating and still finished 36th they’re not very good at it. I would say inspecting the top 25 would be practical. But I get your point.

Robert

They actually don’t. What happens is the chassis gets certified by the R&D center and they get a sticker kinda like an inspection sticker we get on our passenger cars. As for the rest of the process, they have all the technical requirements and specifications. The one that gets everyone is the laser scan platform.

Chad knaus said years ago it has less than 1 tenthousanth of an inch clearance. That’s tight and easy to fail.

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