NASCAR Tiregate – So What?

Unless you are a NASCAR fan who has been living under a rock, NASCAR has been on a witch hunt to find out who may have been messing with the tires in order to get an advantage over the competition. This week NASCAR fined and penalized the Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar team of Richard Childress Racing (RCR).

Evidently there has been talk about some teams manipulating tires for some time in the garage. It hit the media early this season then NASCAR started taking random tires from teams after the Phoenix International Raceway race. Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick‘s tires were looked at and no indication of tampering was found. NASCAR also took tires from Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman after the race at Auto Club Speedway in California.

NASCAR must have seen something suspicious about the tires from California and sent it to an outside consultant for further review. This process took more than a week and Tuesday NASCAR dropped the hammer and issued a P5 penalty to the No. 31 team. A P5 penalty consists of a $125,000.00 fine to Luke Lambert the Crew Chief plus a six “Point Paying” race suspension from competitions including any nonpoint races in-between (All-Star Race) for Lambert, James Bender, team tire technician and Philip Surgen, team engineer.

Potentially more important is Ryan Newman and car owner Richard Childress have been penalized 75 points. This drops the No. 31 team from sixth in points to 26th in points. We can presume that the other RCR car of Paul Menard did not have any tire irregularities.

At no point in time has NASCAR or RCR indicated what was done to the tires. The commonly held rumor is that small pin holes were made in the tire to “Bleed” off air when the tire was hot in the middle of tire run to keep the tire more near the optimal range. This would in effect make the tire good through the whole tire run not just in the middle or at the end of a tire run.

In the eyes of NASCAR and many others this is cheating pure and simple. In addition it is manipulating one of the big three of NASCAR, the tires, fuel or engine: hence the P5 penalty.

Well in my mind there is cheating and there is cheating. Having an engine with more displacement, that’s a no brainer, cheating. I could do that. Having better fuel, that’s the same. Manipulating the tire via engineering something new, well that is pretty cool.

If they were able to figure out what size hole and/or how many of the same and get them to release air to maintain the near optimal pressure in a full tire run they deserve a medal. They deserve an A for effort!  Unfortunately for them I’m not NASCAR and they still deserve a P5 penalty.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 307294 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Greg Biffle – We are Dying a Slow Death

All NASCAR fans know that Roush Fenway Racing did not do very well last year and started out this year more or less the same. Could it be worse than we know? Did Greg Biffle let out some frustration during qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California? We probably won’t know for sure but it does look that way.

Last year Greg Biffle made the Chase for the Sprint Cup on points and Carl Edwards made it via winning a race but mostly the flagship Roush Fenway Racing drivers were not a threat to win every week and perhaps any week especially at the 1.5 and 2 mile tracks they are known to be good at. The talk all last year is they know they are behind and will catch up. Well this year is another year and it is simply not looking good.

Carl Edwards bolted for seemingly greener pastures. The jury is out on that but it seems to get greener every week. Greg Biffle is left to be the elder statesmen of the Roush team so when he says “We are dying a slow death” it is troubling. To be fair here is the full quote.

It’s been a challenging year and a half for us and it’s no different this weekend than normal. All of our cars, I think our best car is 26th or 27th. So that’s just not acceptable for how good of a team we are and how hard everyone works back at the shop and our engines.” Biffle added, “We just got to figure this out. You Know we’re dying a slow death and we just got to work hard and figure out where the speeds at and get the cars trimmed out. Show up closer than we do for the weekend is the main thing we need to work on. Seems like we’re getting speed in. The very last run was our fast run but just not quite fast enough yet.

Greg’s statement only leads to many thoughts. The first and main thought is what happened to “One Ford”? Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, the Penske Racing team, seem to be making those Fords work. Richard Petty Motorsports driver, Aric Almirola driver of the famous no. 43 is 14th in points Sam Hornish Jr. driver of the No. 9 who is 24th in points get their chassis from RFR. It was hoped that Hornish’s connection to Penseke would provide a benefit.

Let’s let the Elephant into the room. Did Roush Fenway Racing do something to Penske Racing when they switched to Ford such that they will not ever help? Will there never truly be “One Ford?”

The season isn’t lost yet for Roush Fenway Racing but it doesn’t look good. Greg Biffle is 16th in points, Trevor Bayne 26th and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 27th but if they keep this up time will run out.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will lead the Charge for Roush Fenway Racing at Auto Club Speedway starting 27th. Greg Biffle will start behind him 29th and Trevor Bayne will start 36th. All of these starting position are bad. The only hope is that this is a 2 mile speedway with multiple groves and it is a long 400 mile race. They can get to the front if they can find some way to make their cars faster. Unfortunately their recent history suggests that will not happen.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 307241 Jeff Gross/NASCAR via Getty Images

Kurt Busch has Been Released From NASCAR Purgatory

On February 20th 2015, Kurt Busch was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR due to the outcome of an order of protection hearing in a Delaware family court. The court had granted on order of protection to Patricia Driscoll from Kurt Busch resulting from an altercation that occurred in Busch’s motor home at the Dover International Speedway.

Kurt Busch signed an agreement with NASCAR outlining his road to reinstatement. The suspension and agreement all happened prior to finding out if actual criminal charges would be filled against Kurt Busch by Dover Delaware.

The decision to lift the suspension was made by NASCAR after Kurt Busch:

  • Complied with all requirements in its reinstatement program;
  • Completed the mandatory behavioral assessment sessions; and
  • The behavioral health care expert who conducted the sessions recommended to NASCAR that Kurt Busch be allowed to return to competition.

NASCAR has also granted a waiver that a driver must compete in all 26 current season events in order to be eligible for the Chase. This means that if Busch can win a race and get enough points to be in the top 30 he would be eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Steve O’Donnel, NASCAR Executive Vice President said, “We have made it very clear to Kurt Busch our expectations for him moving forward, which includes participation in a treatment program and full compliance with all judicial requirements as a result of his off-track behavior.”

Domestic Abuse is serious and as such NASCAR, due to what has happened with other players in other sports was painted into a box. They had to act given what was found in the Family Court. We will never truly know what happened in that motor home. Seeing that the prosecutors came to the same conclusion and Kurt Busch followed and promised to continue their plan; NASCAR also had to act to reinstate Kurt Busch.

One can criticize NASCAR for the suspension and then the quick reinstatement but they had to act or in this case react to what had been happening with Busch off the track. Whatever your opinion of Kurt Busch baring a felony conviction or on track behavior that hurts competition or safety he deserves to be racing. There is no reason to keep Kurt Busch from pursuing his livelihood of racing in NASCAR.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 296903 Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images

There Were Good Crowds at Daytona International Speedway

The first races of the year for all three of the NASCAR touring series is in the record books at Daytona International Speedway. Here are some observations and thoughts about the events of the long weekend.

Much has been said about reduced attendance at NASCAR races but this weekend’s races at Daytona appeared to have changed that trend. NASCAR and the tracks no longer post attendance figures but from my vantage point the races on all four days were well attended. The Daytona 500 was about as close to a sell out as they could get since the speedway is still under construction.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway

In the picture the stands that appear grey are under construction and do not actually have any seats installed. It will be interesting next year to see how the attendance is when all the new grandstands are done.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway

The Daytona Rising project is far from complete but it is a great success. I can attest that it was very nice to take an escalator up to my seats. The wide open concourse area was also well appreciated when  walking to and from the food vendors and restrooms.

Women will love the new Rest Rooms. It appears that Daytona installed twice as many facilities for women as men.

The new seats are much wider with cup holders and were a welcome change from the seats that were there and definitely better than the bleacher seats at other tracks.

The Daytona Rising project is a success even though it isn’t complete. The part that is complete provided race fans with just enough to entice them to come back and see it when it is finished. The Daytona International Speedway will be a First Class facility when it is complete.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

 Feature Photo Credit:  Brian M. Berg Jr.

 

Knock Out Qualifying at Daytona is Exciting but Doesn’t Work

NASCAR Coors Light Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway utilized the knock out qualifying format that was instituted last year. It was exciting but was confusing and convoluted. Much like Talladega last year, it should never be done again.

It seems like it might be exciting. Have the teams run all together, drafting to see who is fastest in order to make the race. It is except when those same drivers use the rules to gain an advantage. During the first session drivers sat on pit road waiting for the last possible time that they would need to get up to speed and post a great lap. The idea was that one wanted to be the car catching the pack and getting the most out of the draft. Then it goes wrong.

There is a big wreck at the tail end of the draft which doesn’t allow the bulk of the field to put up a maximum up to speed lap. Suddenly, what looked exciting messes up a whole bunch of drivers qualifying effort. Suddenly, those who happened to get the draw for the second group have a huge advantage to make the second round.

It wasn’t supposed to be but it ended up looking like simply a timed qualifying race. Why would one have a qualifying race for a qualifying race? Why would one’s qualifying effort be left to the hands of others in the event of a huge wreck?

Well I must say it is more exciting than single car qualifying although I miss the information about each team while they take their 2 minutes or so to make a lap on the big oval. The question then becomes “How do we make it better?”

Well if it looks like a duck then let’s make it a duck. It takes about one minute to make a lap at Daytona. It takes about 2.5 laps to make it up to speed. Line them up by some random draw, bring out a pace car and drop the rag. Then it’s every man or team for themselves, you have five minutes. No boring waiting around pit row gaming the system. Since everyone is out there at the same time everyone will have a chance to get some time in. Some might get seven laps in some maybe only six but at least we have a track full of cars.

It did make for a Story Book ending. Jeff Gordon won the Coors Light Pole Award. His teammate Jimmie Johnson will start outside.

NASCAR either make it what it timed qualifying races or go back to single car qualifying runs.

Photo Credit: 304938 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Photo Credit: 304938 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

If you cannot make it to Daytona International Speedway for the Budweiser Dual 150’s they will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 Thursday February 19th starting at 7 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 304946 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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