NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski's number 2 Team Penske Ford was found with banned modifications to the fenders and side skirts at last weekend's Kobalt 400 race. As a result, Keselowski's crew chief Paul Wolfe has been put on probation for the rest of the year.
According to NASCAR, Keselowski's car was pulled from its place on pit road before qualifying on Friday, where NASCAR officials took a closer look at the bodywork on the car. From there, they determined that the crew had flared out the sheet metal around the rear wheel wells to give the car an aerodynamic advantage.
Team Penske was forced to fix the offending fenders before the car would be allowed out on track. Keselowski was late getting back out to qualify, ultimately qualifying 11th and finishing 7th in Sunday's race.
The practice of tampering with the rear quarter panel wheel openings to improve aerodynamics over the rear of the car was so popular in 2014 that it was promptly banned for 2015. Per ESPN, flared side skirts on Keselowski's car last year likely contributed to the cut tire that spun out Jeff Gordon (and spawned an epic brawl after the race) last year.
In addition to violating NASCAR's catch-all rule against "actions detrimental to stock car racing," NASCAR determined that Keselowski's crew violated these regulations in particular:
20.4.b: Body – All approved OEM-manufactured body components must be used as supplied except as required to stiffen, or to attach to other vehicle components. Tolerances from CAD surfaces and template tolerances are provided to allow for manufacturing, fabrication, and installation variability;
: Surface Conformance – Coordinate measuring machines, scanning equipment, and templates, among other tools, will be used to inspect body surfaces for conformance to the approved OEM and NASCAR CAD files.
Alternately stated in less legalese:
Bizarrely, the use of cheaty fender flares was only determined to be a P2 infraction on NASCAR's scale of P1 to P6, with P6 being the most severe.
NASCAR chose to come down harder on Justin Allgaier's crew for a chunk of ballast that came loose during the race. The loose ballast fell out of Allgaier's number 51 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet during the Kobalt 400, causing Allgaier's car not to meet the minimum weight after the end of the race.
"The issue was unintentional and we regret its occurrence," explained team owner Harry Scott Jr. in a statement released by the team. "Going forward, we have implemented additional procedures to ensure that we do not have a repeat incident."
This accidental advantage somehow ranked as a P3 penalty over the more blatant oops on Keselowski's team, with Allgaier's crew chief Steve Addington receiving a $25,000 fine for the mishap.
The HScott Motorsports team states that they have no plans to appeal the penalty.
Sure, both violations gave these cars a performance advantage, but it's bizarre that intent didn't factor in more when ranking their severity. Fender mods have to be done to the car, so that one's pretty cut and dry. No one ever actually intends to toss a dangerous chunk of loose metal into a car to flop around and fall out on the track.
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