The Simple Solution: How to Solve the Inspection/Cheating Problem in NASCAR

Photo Credit: Steven Muncie/OnPitRoad.com

NASCAR announced on Wednesday that, during the inspection process at the NASCAR R&D center, Kevin Harvick, winner of Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, was found to have an illegal spoiler modification. This infraction has cost the team their “locked-in” spot in the Championship 4. This is just another in a long line of inspection related issues over the past couple seasons.

There have been numerous races in which cars failed tech multiple times. Many times it led to the offending team missing practice, starting at the rear of the field, or missing qualifying etc.. In fact, also at Texas on Sunday, NASCAR made a mistake with a penalty related to Jimmie Johnson when he was forced to start at the rear of the field for failing tech three times. The problem? He only failed tech twice. NASCAR blamed the mistake on a communication failure and has vowed to not let it happen again.

If these teams would present a legal car for technical inspection, there would not be the opportunity for communication failures. Some defend the teams saying, “NASCAR’s process is too complicated”. Funny that these high-dollar, extremely intelligent, highly educated engineers are so easily confused by the organization many fans like to refer to as a “bunch or idiots”. It is even more funny how when NASCAR cranked up the severity of the penalty, the failures decreased. I guess the high-dollar, extremely intelligent, highly educated engineers suddenly figured out how to make it legal.

As soon as this announcement was released, social media lit up with complaints and suggestions. Fans, drivers, former drivers and media members alike were all stating their displeasure with the system and making suggestions for what should be done. One of the most prominent suggestions was that the inspection process needs to be completed at the track. If found legal, it’s legal, and that’s final. No going back to the R&D center.

I agree with the spirit of this idea. However, it is not completely practical. As pointed out above, these team engineers are extremely intelligent. They will find very small, intricate ways to improve performance and it will be well hidden. Therefore, for this idea to work, we need to accept one of two things:

  1. The teams would have to remain at the track until the thorough in-depth inspection process was completed. This will increase cost and complicate schedules. So, not ideal.
  2. Check what can be checked within a reasonable time at the track and accept the fact that something may get overlooked and understand teams will cheat. This method will increase the gap between the haves and have-nots. Something that fans constantly complain about. They want to help the little guy and of course increase parity.

There is an option 3: Have the teams arrive early, perform the in-depth inspection during pre-race, and then assign a NASCAR official to each car. So, nothing gets done to the car without NASCAR’s knowledge. Again, this is very costly. Extra lodging, extra personnel etc..

Many fans also suggested that NASCAR should park the cars for the weekend or the next race depending on when the issue was discovered. Dave Moody addressed something similar to this on his Sirius Speedway NASCAR radio show on Wednesday. Moody made an excellent point – parking teams penalizes stakeholders who did nothing wrong. Fans do not get to see their driver race and sponsors lose exposure. Not a good idea for a sport that already has some public relations issues.

So, with all these ideas being thrown around, I thought I would share my take. It’s one I feel would immediately solve the issues, would not add additional costs, and would not penalize anyone who did nothing wrong.

It is simple. If a team is found to be illegal post-race, the team will be removed from the standings as if they never competed. All other teams will move up in the results in front of where the offending car originally finished. They also lose all points, all stats, all prize money, and are fined $100,000. Fans will still see the car. Sponsors will still receive the exposure. The team, however, will not benefit in anyway. Second offense – double everything. $200,000 fine, lose points times two. Keep doubling the penalty for every subsequent offense.

Now, some will say this is too harsh. Some will say it is similar to a short track system and this is not short track racing, it is the big leagues. Well, if teams were not behaving like a short track team, we would not have to treat them like one.

If a team fails pre-race tech, they start at rear, are penalized 25 points, and are fined $50,000. If they fail a second time, they are allowed to fix the car, make it legal, and compete, but they are penalized per the post-race system mentioned above. If the team chooses not to compete, then they would risk the potential of losing their charter. It will also be the team that is disappointing the fans, sponsors, etc… Not NASCAR.

I guarantee this system will end all tech issues immediately. And, the high-dollar, extremely intelligent, highly educated engineers will focus their attention on ensuring the cars are legal instead trying to find ways to make speed illegally. This may even result in closer competition.

Don’t think for one-minute mega-teams such as Stewart-Haas Racing or Hendrick Motorsports will not assign a team of highly qualified people to be responsible for presenting a legal car.

So, there you have NASCAR, implement this method and put a stop to this problem once and for all.

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8 Comments

  1. A driver/team wins a race and then is found to have cheated. That driver/car/team should be disqualified, end of story. It is unfair to other competitors to allow said driver to keep the win.

  2. NASCAR doesn’t want Ford to win. They made “the call” to insure two Toyotas (or perhaps just one Ford) in the Champ Four at Homestead. Shameful.

  3. Didn’t the TV broadcast not point this out specifically back in Talladega where the Stewart Haas cars dominated? They even drew on the teleprompter to show how far the spoiler on their cars and compared them to the Penske cars. The were yawed out to the right there as well. Why did it take this long to take a quicker look at their spoilers when clearly even the booth could tell something was up with them?

  4. Sorry you detest engineers so much. They work diligently to provide you with something of value to write about. Since the box has been tightened and closer tolerances defined, and since all efforts to make racing closer to make it more interesting to the fans (and press), has attendance soared?
    i believe that opening up the tuning envelope will help the smaller teams.

    • John –
      Actually, quite the contrary, I admire what engineers do and can do. I have a highly technical background myself, and any years of that in racing. My point was that engineers are intelligent enough to present a legal car. People who claim NASCAR made it too tough for them are insulting engineers. As I point out, it is proven when NASCAR tightened up, incidents of tech failures went down. So, they CAN do it. Also, don’t misunderstand, engineers are not calling the shots. They are simply following directions. If we “open the box” and let engineers have it at, we would be amazed at the ingenuity presented.
      I will disagree with you on one point, however. I believe opening the envelope will hurt the smaller teams. The reason is because of the engineers. Large teams can afford larger teams, and higher qualified engineers. Therefore, it will widen the gap.
      Thanks for reading! Hope to hear from you again!

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