Recently, NASCAR has levied some pretty major penalties in the Sprint Cup ranks. I wouldn’t necessarily say I disagree with NASCAR, as rules are rules, but I will give certain crew chiefs credit for ingenuity! My gripe with NASCAR is its seemingly endless quest to take the creative engineering out of a sport in which such engineering is the foundation.
I understand the rules are written in black and white and there is (usually) no debating the letter of the law. But what’s wrong with getting creative in the gray area? I’m not advocating cheating, although I will say I’ve soaked my fair share of tires and knowingly run cheated up engines in the past. One of my favorite aspects of circle track racing is the ability to think outside the box and get creative in the shadowy sections of the rulebook where it’s not so black and white.
Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon are smart—very smart! They just went a little too far. But that is what you have to do, especially when NASCAR rolls out a new car, like the Gen 6 cars. There is so much uncharted territory that crew chiefs need to explore the limits. While this may stop other crew chiefs from getting creative at the top because Papa NASCAR is watching a little closer, I hope it gets the Saturday night short track crew chiefs and drivers thinking and acting on the gray area in their rulebooks.
When I first started working on race cars, an engine builder, who’s name I will leave out of this, taught me to read a rulebook for what it doesn’t say. His example that sticks with me is about the specs for the valve job. The rulebook stated that three-angle valve jobs were allowed, but four-angle valve jobs were prohibited. When he read this, he turned to me and said “It doesn’t say you can’t have a five-angle valve job!” While not in the spirit of what the rulebook said in black and white, five-angle valve jobs were not addressed and fell into the gray area.
My point to the racers and crew chiefs is: Don’t lose the ingenuity and creative out-of-the-box thinking that this sport is built on! Push the limits! Make your tech officials mad! They are there to enforce the rulebook…give them something to add next year! Then next, find something new to drive them crazy!
Sure, some things will work and some won’t, but it’s worth trying to find the limits. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that takes you from mid-pack car to a Top 5 car. Maybe you’ll go the other way, but it’s worth trying.
Spend time looking at other racers’ stuff. Ask some questions. When they stop answering, maybe that’s a place you start focusing on. Look at all the stuff the NASCAR guys get in trouble for, maybe there is some trickledown that you can start at your track!