It’s become commonplace for the driver of a race-winning car to do such a big burnout that the rear tires get obliterated.
At first glance, the burnout is just a sign of overexuberance. You can’t blame a driver for getting crazy with a burnout after a win, right?
Well, maybe. Blown out tires can damage the rear-end of a car. And a damaged car can’t get inspected as thoroughly after a race as a car that’s intact. After all, how could NASCAR figure out what was caused by damage from the burnout?
We’re not using the first three graphs to allege the teams of all drivers who employ the practice — Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday at Chicago included — of nefarious acts throughout the season. We don’t know how many winning cars would or wouldn’t pass inspection if the tires were blown out. But count Dale Earnhardt Jr. as someone who wants to end the practice of drivers obliterating their tires so that we know just what’s going on with winning cars.
“It just seems like the [current] Gen-6 car once everybody started figuring out how to trick the underbody and things like that everybody blows the tires out,” Junior said. “It is just hard for me to see the logic in suspending a crew chief, car chief for some tape flapping on the spoiler when the winner drives into Victory Lane with the rear of the car tore all to hell. I don’t see how that doesn’t come across anybody’s conscious or common sense. I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
“And it never has, I have been kind of waiting all this time for NASCAR to eventually say look you know we would just rather you guys not blow the tires out. They talk about not wanting to be the ‘fun police’ being the ‘fun police’ is not on the radar of their damn problems. You know, I don’t think they need to worry about — that is a cop out in my opinion. But, I think that you can do burnouts without blowing the tires out. That happened for years.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s teammate Chase Elliott was docked 15 points for unapproved aerodynamic modifications at Chicago. Elliott, who finished second to Truex, appeared to have tape on his spoiler after the race.
After he used the “cop out” phrase, Junior was asked why he used it.
“I just feel like that they should step-up,” Junior said of NASCAR not creating a rule that drivers and teams can’t blow a tire out in a burnout. “They’re the governing body. It’s obvious it’s done intentionally. It’s not unintentional. And you cannot tech the race car. They have to jack it up and put tires on it. If you’re watching the video of these crewman trying to fix that tape on that spoiler of [Elliott’s] car, imagine what the hell’s going on with the car that gets to jack it up and put tires on it before it can go across the LIS. We could go on and on about it. It’s something I don’t really got to worry about no more after the end of this season. But, I’ve been feeling this way about the blowouts for a long time. It’s like damn, why don’t they just tell them to stop. You can do a damn burnout without blowing the tires out.”
While Junior certainly has a valid point about burnouts covering up potential penalties, Denny Hamlin may have a valid point about Elliott’s penalty too. Two races before Chicago, Hamlin was docked 25 points after his car failed post-race inspection after his win at Darlington.
“All I know is they had a great points day,” Hamlin said. “Really, I think they just took a few stage points away for the most part. From my standpoint, it looks like it’s a misdemeanor. NASCAR didn’t deem that a very big penalty, so there must not have been any intent there. I guess it was all an accident.”
Hamlin said his Darlington penalty “had nothing to do” with the race win. If that’s true, it’s fair to wonder why Elliott’s penalty was 10 points lighter than Hamlin’s. While NASCAR has never wanted to be in the business of judging intent, how is an infraction that allegedly had nothing to do with a win more detrimental than a blatant attempt to gain an advantage?
Ryan Newman also wondered about Elliott’s car being legal at the end of the second stage. Newman got lapped by Elliott to go two laps down right before the stage concluded. If Elliott’s car wasn’t legal at the time of Newman going two laps down, Newman says his race strategy got changed by being passed by an illegal car.
“And I’m pretty sure his car had the same infractions at that point as it did throughout the entire race,” Newman said. “So, his situation changed my situation and the way we raced our race because of that. Obviously, NASCAR deemed it an advantage. So, how do you really penalize in that situation? To me it’s shame on a lot of people for letting it get to that point.”
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