Since sometime in June NASCAR competitors, led by Brad Keselowski have been noticing something funny with some of the Hendrick Motorsports cars. It can also be seen during some of the races in the in-car camera shots. The rear end of the car relative to the rear wheels changes. It is especially evident on the straight away if a Hendrick car takes an evasive measure. The rear wheels seam to go in and out of the wheel wells. It looks funny and gets your attention. This all seemed to come to the surface during the press conferences at Michigan International Speedway.
The whole idea behind this is that this changes the stagger of the car allowing it to handle better in the corner and thereby be faster than the other cars. Brad Keselowski said, “I just think there’s big discrepancies in the cars right now. There are parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that makes the car more competitive, Some guys have it, some don’t.”
During the post-race press conference Jack Roush weighed in, “The 24 car put a left rear tire through a battery at Darlington, that was a wake-up call. We’ve been working at it, got assurance from NASCAR that it’s OK, it’s within the rules. Greg Biffle added, “That threw us all through a loop right in the middle of this thing, So we took our notebook, even what we raced here last time, we threw it away. It completely changed the way we race these cars compared to the way we used to race these cars. It’s all rear-suspension related. There’s a lot more to it than this thing that these guys think is going on with the rear end.”
The picture above is Greg Biffle’s Number 16 race winning car going through the last inspection before being rolled onto pit road at Michigan International Speedway. There is a hole, approximately centered on the car on the lower frame rail used to position the car. The alignment is checked on the wheels, front to back and side to side. The distance between the wheels, front to back and side to side is also checked. When the rear wheels move during the race they would presumably move outside of the tolerances required by NASCAR rules and measured by this Jig.
Brad Keselowski put it this way. “Obviously, there’s a question to the interpretation that as of right now it’s legal. But I’m sure that Roger (Penske) doesn’t want to be the one caught red-handed. As a group at Penske Racing, we have not felt comfortable enough to risk that name and reputation that Roger has over those parts and pieces. Others have, which is their prerogative. I’m not going to slam them for that. But it’s living in a gray area. Roger doesn’t do that. There’s certainly some performance there that we’ve lost. I shouldn’t say lost, but haven’t gained, because we choose not to do that.”
NASCAR teams are penalized all the time, especially after Daytona and Talladega for having cars that are too low in height after the race. Does that mean it is acceptable to be low in height during the race? So the question remains, is Hendrick Motor Sports bending the rules? It is easy to see Brad Keselowski’s point. If it is important enough to measure it before the race, why would it not be important during the race?
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