Stewart and McReynolds comment on NASCAR’s latest cheaters to get caught Tony Stewart, appearing on SPEED’s NASCAR Race Hub on Wednesday (airs at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday), commented on NASCAR’s punishment of the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing team following inspection of the race car with which the team won last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Following are Stewart’s comments from the NASCAR Race Hub interview, as well as reaction from SPEED and FOX Sports analyst Larry McReynolds.
On how much of a competitive advantage the No. 33 team likely gained from their actions:
Larry McReynolds: “However the body was improperly mounted, it probably was mounted in the direction that there would be an advantage. The thing about the competition today is that a little bit is a lot. These guys are hunting thousands of a second. Is that the reason Clint Bowyer won that race? Nobody can say absolutely yes or no. If he was 20 pounds light, you couldn’t definitively say that he won a race as a result of that or not. If your body doesn’t meet the coordinates the way NASCAR mandates that the body has to be mounted, you’re not mounted properly. zzzz
On the leeway NASCAR allows teams as far as the mounting the bodies are concerned:
Larry McReynolds: There are several things a team can do to body location. Since this car was introduced in 2007, NASCAR has had pretty strict guidelines about how a body is to be mounted on the chassis. There are a lot of things a team can do with the body. To avoid confusion, this has nothing to do with templates. The body dimensions were right in line. But what we mean by how the body is located – the team can move the body a little ahead or back on the chassis; can move it to the left a little; can skew it a bit – they can do all these things to change how the car drives a bit and the car would still fit the templates. NASCAR does have tolerances.
“NASCAR takes the winning car from every race back to the R&D center for an extensive post-race inspection and also takes random cars. The No. 33 was a random after the Richmond race. The team is present for these inspections. NASCAR showed Shane Wilson and the key figures at RCR that they were awfully close to the edge of the envelope as to where the body was mounted on the car. NASCAR told them they might want to think about backing off a bit – you’re legal but awfully close. They won the Loudon race with a different car and went back to the R&D center for post-race inspection and some of the same things got checked again and they were outside the tolerances.
“I hate it for all of them – this was huge for this team to win the race. It took them from being the underdog to being second, but now they’re 12th and out of the lead. It puts a black cloud over Shane Wilson’s first win as a crew chief. It puts a black cloud over General Mills’ first Cup win as a primary sponsor and they’ve been in this sport for 14 years. But this penalty is in line with what NASCAR has done with other teams, especially when it comes to the body of the car.”
On the severity of the punishment:
Tony Stewart: “Until we find out what the penalty was for, as far as the severity of how far it was off, you don’t know, but NASCAR has been consistent with saying as these penalties keep occurring, that they are going to keep raising the level – and I’m not even sure if they raised the level – but the timing is terrible for this team. To see these guys race their way into the Chase, go out and have a weekend like they had at Loudon and now have this happen, it makes my weekend at Loudon not look so bad now.”
On whether the team can rebound from the penalties:
Tony Stewart: “It’s possible for sure. The biggest thing is going to be going to the race track and having that stress of not having his crew chief, not having his car chief and those are two key people on a race weekend … I can promise you that (Richard) Childress has the resources to cover this … it’s definitely possible, but everyone else is going to have to have trouble.”
On whether the punishment fits the crime:
Larry McReynolds: “Regardless of how severe or how light the crime was, it sounds like the team had been warned about it one time before and I’m sure that’s the thing NASCAR is looking the hardest at. NASCAR probably feels like they worked with the team but they didn’t heed NASCAR’s warning.”
On whether the No. 33 team can overcome the points penalty:
Larry McReynolds: “Nine races is still a long ways to go, but the biggest thing is how much this will knock the wind out of their sails. This is the race team, in my opinion, that had as much momentum going into the Chase as any of the other 11 teams with three consecutive top-10 finishes. They rolled into Loudon and won the race. But now – boom – NASCAR has taken the points away, which is huge; they’ve taken away $150,000, which is huge; but even more, now the crew chief and car chief, the two main players on that team besides the driver, are being sat down for more than half of the Chase. RCR has a lot of depth but how much is this going to knock the wind out of their sails? Who knows – it could even motivate them even more.
“NASCAR doesn’t enjoy doing this. I know they would prefer this never be an issue but they have to maintain law and order and ensure the other 11 Chase teams that they’re keeping a level playing field.”