NASCAR officials display, explain modified part that led to No. 3 team’s penalty

Austin Dillon's No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
James Gilbert
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — NASCAR officials met with media members Saturday morning to display and explain the specific modified part that led to the L1-level penalty issued to the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team, following the April 16 race at Martinsville Speedway.

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Brad Moran, managing director of the NASCAR Cup Series, and Carl Goodman, who manages and oversees technical inspection for the series, brought the piece to Kansas Speedway to further explain what went wrong, leading to a 60-point penalty against the No. 3 team and its driver Austin Dillon, in addition to the $75,000 fine and two-week suspension issued to crew chief Keith Rodden.

The part is known as a splitter stay, one of six bars that connect the splitter to the frame of the body as part of the overall underwing. Each bar is supposed to feature three separate securing nuts — two jam nuts and a centered couple nut — that lock the splitter into place within one one-thousandth of an inch and is not adjustable after pre-race inspection.

However, on the specific bar utilized by the No. 3 team at Martinsville, those three nuts were bonded together, creating one singular piece instead – which disables the locking function of the nuts and permits further movement and adjustability either after pre-race inspection or during a pit stop.

The No. 3 Chevrolet was not inspected during at-track post-race inspection, selected instead to be taken to the NASCAR Research & Development Center for a full teardown. Moran explained Saturday each vehicle that is brought back to R&D gets a full, thorough strip down to the bare bones, disassembling and inspecting each panel, rod and piece with intense scrutiny. That process, he said, is meant to further ensure the model of the Next Gen vehicle, which features a plethora of single-sourced parts that teams must purchase to build their vehicles.

The modified parts that led to the penalty issued to Dillon’s No. 3 team are parts that the team is responsible for, though the rod and adjuster are supplied by single-source providers. Goodman explained that adjusting the splitter manipulates the floor of the vehicle, which is the most aerodynamically powerful section of the car. A single turn, the officials said, creates a significant adjustment.

The piece was made available for display Saturday in the NASCAR hauler for team managers and crew chiefs who chose to see it themselves. NASCAR is implementing a renewed sense of transparency and intends to make illegal parts available to media and team members on the first day of a Cup Series race weekend for further explanation, pending conclusions of any appeals.

The No. 3 team did appeal the penalty but lost its hearing on May 2. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel, which saw J. Kirk Russell, Lake Speed and Kevin Whitaker hear the case, stated: “As submitted the nuts are not a thread locking device – they are connected and part of the turnbuckle. The nuts do not lock the assembly. Therefore, the assembly has been modified.”