If you ever doubted the fact that NASCAR runs on rumors, the shenanigans we were entertained by this weekend in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage proved it. Apparently, at some point NASCAR let it be known that they might be taking a few extra cars back to the R&D center after the race ended on Sunday. There wasn’t an announcement or a memo sent out, it probably was whispered at a table in the canteen.
By the time Brad Keselowski stole the pole for the running of the Pure Michigan 400, the threat had turned into common knowledge, which probably helped to fuel Brad’s statement that the Toyota cars were sandbagging. Which of course, the Toyota camp proceeded to deny most insistently adding to the race week conversation highlighted by a collection of salty statements provided by Kyle Busch.
Is this an aberration, you wonder? Would the sanctioning body actually lie in order to get teams to stick to the rulebook? Well, why not. After all, crew chiefs have made entire careers out of telling the inspection officials that their car meets spec, while all along their cars decidedly did not. The 2017 season has been no exception with eight crew chiefs being told to sit down for at least one race after violations have been discovered. But if the harsher penalties have not stemmed the tide of working outside the lines, perhaps some good old fashioned veiled threats would work.
Well, as of Monday evening no violations were reported from post-race inspection and only the No. 32 machine was sent to the back of the field for any pre-race problems (Note: Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 32 flunked pre-qualifying inspection four times). It sort of suggests that perhaps the boys calling the shots did need their chains yanked a bit.
This is actually one of the endearing aspects of NASCAR racing. Even after all the new templates, stricter regulations, laser sights, disappearing allowances and a digital monitor on pit road, the teams are still failing to walk the straight and narrow. Amidst cries of cheating and deception by some of the more conservative fans, there is an equal amount of clicking of glasses in garages when a fast one is pulled on the man. That might be why even Steve O’Donnell was responding to the whole sandbagging incident with a bit of tongue in cheek on the Monday radio show. We like the perpetuation of the bad boy image, no matter if you are sitting on your sofa or writing the checks from the confines of a glass tower.
Will the inspection process run more smoothly in Bristol? I wouldn’t bet on it. O’Donnell’s public admission of guilt in planting the rumor may have served as a red flag for some of the crew chiefs that live on pushing boundaries. The temptation to slip on by the inspection bay for the upcoming race may be too much to pass up. We might see a massive collection of confiscated parts and empty chairs…or maybe not.
After all, it was just a rumor. Surely nothing that warrants any serious kind of attention, at least not in a sport that relies on consistent application of the rulebook on a weekly basis.
Tune in next week for the next episode of As the Wheel Turns.
The No. 10 team of Danica Patrick unveiled their throwback paint scheme that will be run at Darlington. It honors Robert Yates, the 2018 inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His Robert Yates Racing team won the 1999 Cup with their No. 88 Quality Care Ford driven by Dale Jarrett. Robert Yates is currently fighting liver cancer.
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