Why would any driver want to ruin a perfectly good race car?
Denny Hamlin and crew chief Dave Rogers had a good idea on Sunday night as they watched Kevin Harvick damage the back end and burn the wheels off of the winning No. 4 Budweiser Chevy at Dover International Speedway.
It’s something NASCAR should look into to maybe look at these cars before they damage them after the race. While it may look like it’s an accident — sometimes hitting the wall — more than likely, it’s not
Denny Hamlin on drivers damaging cars post-race
“Nothing we do is without merit,” Hamlin said. “We all know what we’re doing. It’s a tough balance, because NASCAR wants us to celebrate, but as drivers, we know when a tire is going to blow. Sometimes we continue to put the throttle to it and other times, if you really want to save your car for a race coming up, you don’t do that.”
Just part of the game
Hamlin doesn’t want to take anything away from Harvick’s win — which he deemed “impressive." Still, he and other drivers acknowledged the practice of destroying cars in post-race celebrations prior to final inspection is nothing new.
“It’s not just this weekend," said Hamlin, who indicated Harvick's celebration at Dover wasn't unique. “I think it’s been going on for a long time. With NASCAR’s procedure of not inspecting or scanning the cars until after the race — we all know what pulling a fender does and it’s a big help on the race track.
I don’t think destroying a race car is respectful to anybody. I’ve never had any need to
Ryan Newman on damaging cars post-race
“But if you choose to manipulate your car at all and know it’s not going to get teched until after the race, you have to do one of two things. You have to guarantee yourself you’re going to win because you don’t want to be a random, because the winner is the only one that’s able to damage his car without being too obvious.
“I think it’s been going on for a real long time, but it’s something NASCAR should look into to maybe look at these cars before they damage them after the race. While it may look like it’s an accident — sometimes hitting the wall — more than likely, it’s not.”
Intentionally damaging cars - It's nothing new
Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski agrees that drivers have “absolutely” damaged cars intentionally after a race for the based on NASCAR’s inspection process.
“The cars aren’t teched the same way at the track as they can be teched at the R&D Center,” Keselowski said. “It’s been going on for a long time. I’m not making any accusations. If you look back even 10-15 years ago when they put that funky thing on the roof of the car. It’s not anything new to this sport.
“I’ve definitely blown tires out. I think every driver has done something to do some kind of damage to their car.”
Hamlin said the cat-and-mouse game between teams and the sanctioning body is never ending. And with so much on the line for the teams — particularly in the Chase — the stakes are high for everyone. However, he believes that once a damaged car arrives at the R&D Center on Tuesday, it’s a moot point. A blown tire can mask any number of manipulations with the sheet metal around the wheel.
“NASCAR is really smart, and the teams are really smart, and they’re constantly battling each other to outsmart each other,” Hamlin said. “It’s always a game and the game never stops from when you leave the shop until you get to that R&D Center.”
What can be done?
While some racing series confiscate cars immediately following the race, that’s not the case for NASCAR, which encourages drivers to put on a show for the fans.
Still, when the integrity for the sport is on the line, NASCAR must find a way to maintain a level playing field.
“There’s a way to do it,” Hamlin added. “I’m going to leave it up to NASCAR to do it however they might, but I’d like to see in the future some kind of way of saying, ‘Make sure it comes into Victory Lane the same way that it was on the race track.'”
Could NASCAR enforce a rule where drivers were not allowed to compromise the integrity of the cars after the race?
“I think that would be a very gray rule,” Ryan Newman said. “I think it would be beneficial for the rest of us that didn’t win that day. But there’s really no point in destroying a good race car.
“I don’t think destroying a race car is respectful to anybody. I’ve never had any need to.”