NASCAR officials rule parts did not impact safety, functionality
NASCAR on Wednesday determined no penalties were in order for 31 national-series teams caught using noncompliant roof flap spacers last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
Following what it termed a “thorough review,” the sanctioning body announced there would be no penalties to the 16 Sprint Cup Series teams and 15 Nationwide Series programs that had their modified spacers confiscated last Thursday. The spacers support the hinge bar of the roof flap, which is a safety mechanism designed to keep the car on the ground in the event of a spin.
“We examined this from every aspect we possibly could and determined that there would be no penalties involved,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. “Based upon our inspection and subsequent review, it was our determination that the functionality and safety aspects of the roof flaps were not compromised and the on track competition would not be impacted."
“Moving forward we will work with the roof flap manufacturer and the race teams to evaluate and optimize the associated installation hardware, review the process in its totality and communicate in a timely manner to the garage area any revisions that we determine need to be made.”
The Sprint Cup teams involved were those of drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne, Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears.
The Nationwide Series teams involved were those of Busch, Kenseth, Bayne, Brian Vickers, Travis Pastrana, Michael Annett, Cole Whitt, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Landon Cassill, Blake Koch, Mike Bliss, Reed Sorenson, Robert Richardson Jr., Jason White and Dexter Stacey.
Roof flaps -- technically known as “hinged air deflectors” -- come in a kit supplied to teams by a division of Roush Industries. Section 20-3.8-J of the Sprint Cup Rule Book specifies that they “must be NASCAR-approved and obtained only through NASCAR-approved sources.” They also “must be installed as specified in the instruction sheet supplied with the hinged air deflector kit.” The small, cylindrical spacers sit inside the cavity below the flap.
The belief is that teams replaced the spacers to try and shave weight from their race cars -- particularly key on the Sprint Cup circuit, where crews are working with a new, Generation-6 vehicle that is 150 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Although the spacers have more to do with how the housing fits into the roof then they do with how the flaps deploy, NASCAR still explicitly forbids teams from modifying a safety system designed to help keep cars on the ground.
“I’m truly convinced, if this is all about saving weight, that these spacers did not hurt the integrity of the roof flaps,” said Larry McReynolds, a former crew chief and now a television analyst. “But the bottom line is, the roof flap is a sacred area. It has been ever since we started running them in the early ’90s. It comes in a kit, and per the NASCAR rule, you are not to deviate from anything on those flaps -- not the bolts, not the spacers, not the flaps, not the cavities, not the location. You are not to deviate from them whatsoever.”
In this case, though, NASCAR chose not to levy any penalties. Pemberton said last weekend that the spacers were “probably not something that was on a normal inspection routine,” leaving open the possibility that teams may have been using the modified versions prior to Daytona.