Drivers brace for roof flap spacer penalties
July 05, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Related: Explaining the new roof flaps
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR teams caught with unapproved roof flap spacers July 4 at Daytona International Speedway won’t know until next week what penalties will be handed down by the sanctioning body.
But stiff fines and points penalties are not unlikely, since the pieces in question are part of the safety package mandated by NASCAR.
“It seems to me that (NASCAR) isn’t going to like that very much,” said Richard Childress Racing driver Jeff Burton. “It’s very clear that you’re supposed to use all the parts that come in the package (and) not supposed to modify it.”
Cup drivers affected were Jamie McMurray (Earnhardt Ganassi Racing), Casey Mears (Germain Racing), Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose (Richard Petty Motorsports), Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Carl Edwards (Roush Fenway Racing), Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski (Penske Racing), Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers Racing), Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing), Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. (Michael Waltrip Racing).
The confiscated spacers were not uniform in size or weight and were not those that were part of the roof-flap kits provided to the teams.
Roof flaps deploy and allow the release of air pressure that can build up inside the cockpit of a car when it is turned at high speed.
“I don’t know what the rule is to begin with, so I better keep my mouth shut,” Bowyer said. “…I just hope it comes up when I’m fixing to flip, and keeps me on the ground. I know that.”
Because the number of teams using the non-approved parts was so widespread, it is thought that the parts in question had been used in previous races without drawing the attention of NASCAR’s technical inspectors.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said that was likely the case, noting that, “it’s probably not something that was on a normal inspection routine.
“Once in a while, you’ll find things like that, and it’s probably something the teams have probably done a little bit in the past.”
Keselowski, the defending series champion, admitted that while he doesn’t know what action NASCAR may take, “it’s not what you want to see.”
“The parts were fixed on all the cars, and nobody raced them and we move on,” Keselowski said. “Problem solved. I’d like to see our processes go that way.
“I think that’s the way they were more traditionally done over the last 10 or 15 years, and I think that model served the sport fairly well.”
Several of the drivers said there was no advantage to be gained from the parts in question, but Truex Jr. said going forward, his MWR team “will just have to show up at the race track with the ones they want us to have.”
Truex said it was his understanding NASCAR officials were shown the spacers used by MWR teams during the offseason.
Pemberton said he was not aware of any official submission for the machined parts.
Burton knows firsthand that such occurrences can draw the wrath of the sanctioning body.
“We had our (roof flaps) positioned in a place they didn’t want them … and they whacked us hard,” Burton said of a 1997 incident at Talladega. “Hell, they cut the roof off my car. Fined us big, too.
“In the past, they’ve been very, very, very strict and no leniency whatsoever when you mess with a roof flap. And I don’t know why that would change. I expect to see penalties; if we don’t, it’s only because there were a lot of teams (involved).”