When conducting a post-race inspection, NASCAR investigates several things. First and foremost, inspectors measure the height of the rear wing. NASCAR gives teams the benefit of the doubt during these inspections. In other words, it takes in account race damage as possible reasons for a car not coming in at the mandated measurements. In fact, there's usually a range the car must fall into. Officials measure the height of the rear wing and front splitter from the ground. If the car is outside of the tolerance area, the car is subject to an infraction.
From time to time, NASCAR randomly selects race engines to run through a dynamometer for inspection purposes. This process happens in Concord at the Research and Development Center. Usually, teams don't sweat these inspections, but on occasion, red flags have been raised. NASCAR is mainly concerned with horsepower output during these dyno inspections.
Every so often, inspectors do find infractions during a post-race inspection. Sometimes these violations are attributed to racing damage while other times, NASCAR deems them as intentional attempts to circumvent the rules. One of the frustrating aspects of the NASCAR rules is the notion of intent. NASCAR must make a judgment and handle each situation according to what it finds. By building the car of tomorrow (COT) and revamping the inspection process, NASCAR was able to change its outlook on infractions and subsequent penalties.
NASCAR typically waits until the Tuesday after race day to issue penalties. And as you read earlier, Hendrick Motorsports learned first hand that NASCAR would be firm when it comes to penalizing teams that are found guilty of breaking the rules with the COT. NASCAR continues to have as close to a no-tolerance policy as it ever has. Penalties are strict and crew chiefs and other team members have lost jobs in the wake of them. In 2007, Michael Waltrip Racing fired the crew chief of the #55 Toyota driven by Waltrip himself after NASCAR found an illegal substance in the fuel system. More recently, Red Bull Racing fired the team members responsible for the illegal sheet metal found on the #83 Toyota driven by Brian Vickers.
Since the COT's launch, the penalties have been very costly, both for the driver who suffers point losses, and the teams which pay fines -- in some cases, up to $150,000.
For more information about NASCAR and other NASCAR-related topics, follow the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- 10 Essential Tools of NASCAR Pit Crew Members
- How NASCAR Broadcasts Work
- How does a NASCAR track physically change during a race?
- How NASCAR Racing Grooves Work
- What is hypermiling?
- Why is a NASCAR race car called "loose" or "tight?"
- How NASCAR Wedge Adjustments Work
- Is it easy to cheat in NASCAR?
- Why is camber so critical in NASCAR?
- Why is it so hard to understand the NASCAR penalty system?
- How the NASCAR Schedule Works
- How NASCAR Prize Money Works
- How does downforce help a NASCAR race car?
- How NASCAR Drafting Works
- What was NASCAR's gentleman's agreement?
- Associated Press. "NASCAR's Carl Edwards docked 100 points, plus 10 bonus points for failed inspection after win." March 6, 2008. (Dec. 5, 2008) http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=auto&id=3279223
- Aumann, Mark. NASCAR.com. "Chassis inspection system a state-of-the-art process." May 23, 2008. (Dec. 4, 2008) http://www.nascar.com/2008/news/features/05/21/research.development.chassis.part.3/index.html
- Coble, Don. "NASCAR officials welcome controversies." The Times-Union. April 10, 2003. (Dec. 6, 2008) http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/041003/spr_12242862.shtml
- Mejia, Diego. "Stewart wins controversial l." Autosport.com. Oct. 6, 2008. (Dec. 5, 2008) http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/71179
- NASCAR.com. "Gordon, Johnson Docked 100 points for violations." June 26, 2007. (Dec. 5, 2008) http://www.nascar.com/2007/news/headlines/cup/06/26/jgordon.jjohnson.penalties/index.html
- Rodman, David. "Still more to learn about new car after first full year." NASCAR.com. Dec. 12, 2008. (Dec. 5, 2008) http://www.nascar.com/2008/news/features/12/12/enterprise.new.car.after.year.one/story_single.html#page2
- Utter, Jim. "Red Bull fires worker after Vickers' team gets busted." The Charlotte Observer. Oct. 24, 2008. (Dec. 6, 2008) http://www.thatsracin.com/topstories/story/20293.html