FOX NASCAR Analysts React to Tire Penalties Handed Down to No. 31

NASCAR on Tuesday imposed a P5 level penalty on the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team for rules infractions discovered as a result of NASCAR’s post-event tire audit conducted following the March 22 race at Auto Club Speedway.

Below, FOX NASCAR analysts Jeff Hammond, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip offer their thoughts on the penalties:

On the severity of the infraction and the penalties:

“This is a huge deal because NASCAR had an idea of what was going on and there had been enough warnings going through the garage that I’m surprised teams kept doing this. NASCAR’s viewpoint is you might as well be changing the tire codes or soaking the tires. There is a reason that we got to the point of NASCAR mandating that teams could not mess with tires – because of how much teams were softening tires and sometimes changing the codes. Past history is the reason NASCAR controls tires in conjunction with Goodyear. This will be another page in the history book under ‘why you shouldn’t devise a clever way to manage air pressure.’"

On whether drilling holes in tires poses a safety issue:

“Yes. Just because the No. 31 team was doing it and it wasn’t a safety issue doesn’t mean the next guy who comes along who thinks he can do it better won’t compromise the tire. Compromising the tire is unacceptable to all involved. We do enough to compromise the tire within the rulebook without stepping outside the rulebook."

On whether NASCAR got its message across with the penalties:

“NASCAR made its point loud and clear. I’d hate to be the owner of a team who didn’t get the message loud and clear after this. If this happens again, I don’t think NASCAR is going to be as ‘lenient,’ and I use that word tongue-in-cheek, because the second time around won’t be as pretty."

–Jeff Hammond, FOX NASCAR analyst

“The three major items you don’t tamper with are the engine, fuel and tires. Go back prior to a couple of years ago and anybody tampering with tires usually was using a substance to soften the compound and give the tires more grip. It’s now noted teams have been doing things to bleed air out of the tires, but NASCAR views that the same as softening tires because it’s altering the tire. Sometimes we take for granted those four tires are the only thing connecting a 3,200 pound car to the track. NASCAR doesn’t take kindly to anything that might alter and put in jeopardy the integrity of the tire. That’s why they came down so hard.

“For years, NASCAR imposed a minimum air pressure rule. There is no mandate this year– only a recommendation from Goodyear. But bleeding air out of the tires helps the performance of the car over the course of a run at any size track. If you bleed air off, you don’t have to start as low on air pressure. Air pressure builds over the course of a run due to heat. As pressure builds up, performance starts to suffer. There is an optimum air pressure at which the cars perform, and if teams can bleed air off of the tires, they come closer to accomplishing that optimum pressure. .

“The No. 31 team had a little bit of momentum going with strong runs during the ‘West Coast Swing,’ was in the top 10 in points and appeared on the brink of winning its first race. This was an awfully big hit. Seventy-five points is almost two races’ worth of points. It will be interesting to see how this penalty and suspension of Luke Lambert affect the No. 31 team because Ryan Newman was the poster child for making the Chase and nearly winning the championship based on points. And he just lost 75 of them."

–Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst

“Teams had been warned and have known that NASCAR had wind of them poking holes in tires. But what I don’t understand is that for years, there was a mandated minimum air pressure. But this year, teams are allowed to run whatever air pressures they desire. If teams want to take a chance, go low on pressure and risk blowing a tire, that’s their prerogative. If there is no minimum pressure mandated, why does NASCAR care how much pressure is in the tire at the end of the run, despite how the air escapes? That’s the way I see it, but that’s not how NASCAR sees it. In their view, it’s tampering with tires, and tires are one of the sacred three things teams shouldn’t touch. This definitely sends a message to the garage that NASCAR is serious about this practice.

“NASCAR could solve this problem by allowing teams to use tire-pressure sensors like other series run. If I was competing, I’d want the pop-off valve like other series have. That would relieve the issue for the teams and for NASCAR."

–Darrell Waltrip, FOX NASCAR analyst

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