Does NASCAR Need a Chase Waiver?

Kurt Busch won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. With his win and his waiver from NASCAR, Kurt Busch is now eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup and the championship. It is ironic that his win comes the same week that Brian France talked about wanting to find a way for his brother Kyle Busch to be eligible for the Chase even though he has not raced at all this season.

Kurt Busch sat out the first three races because he was suspended by NASCAR for events that occurred off the race track. You can read more about it here. When Busch was reinstated by NASCAR he asked for and was granted a waiver allowing him to qualify for the Chase if he was able to get into the top 30 in points. He would presumably need to win a race also because he was so far down in the points.

The premise of the waiver has always been to allow a team to compete for a championship even if their driver happened to miss a race or two due to special circumstances. I like this idea. NASCAR racing is a team sport. In other team sports a playoff caliber team does not miss the playoffs if their star player misses a few games. It is logical and fair to grant these waivers. Having both Busch brothers in this position gives us the perfect opportunity to discuss the extent of waivers.

Let’s first talk about Kurt Busch. As noted above he missed the first three races of the season and consequently started the fourth race with 0 points. The 30th place driver after three races was Jeff Gordon with 42 points.

This is where the “Waiver” meets the road. Kurt Busch comes back to the Series and consequently puts on a Championship caliber run to match his teammate Kevin Harvick. In his first race back Kurt Busch finishes 5th and moves up in the standings to 33rd with 39 points. Continuing on from there he finishes 3rd, 14th, 14th, 15th and wins this week at Richmond.

Kurt Busch is now 18th in the standings with 222 points but more importantly he is only 8 points away from 16th place, potentially a place in the Chase without requiring a win. If Busch keeps on this pace with 17 races left he will be solidly in the top 16 in points. To further put his season in perspective, Kurt Busch already has 7 more points than he did after the Coca-Cola 600 last year. This is a run worthy of a Champion and Kurt Busch’s season to date is the definition of why NASCAR should have this waiver system.

Kyle Busch has missed nine races to date with it being expected that he will miss at least one to three more. Missing about ½ the regular is too many races to grant a waiver for.  It just doesn’t seem right to miss that much of the season.

I estimate that he would have to out point the 30th place driver by 180 points the last races of the season. In other words the 30th place driver would have to finish 30th or worse in the remaining races. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that Kyle Busch could make it into the top 30 and win a race. This effort would also be a championship caliber on the part of Kyle Busch and his team. In the end it is up to NASCAR of course to grant the waiver but I think missing half the regular season is much different than three races; it is just too much to give.

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

Feature Photo Credit:  Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing

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