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Analysis: How NASCAR stars are trying to “swerve” rules after the checker

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Analysis: How NASCAR stars are trying to “swerve” rules after the checker
By:
Sep 19, 2016, 9:12 PM

Don’t stop watching NASCAR’s drivers after the checkered flag falls – there are some strange goings on occurring after that. Lee Spencer explains why.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Car of Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, during inspection
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Joey Gase, Go Green Racing Ford, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet inspection
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet inspection
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet goes through inspection

Remember when “Swerving” was just a nickname for Ernie Irvan? Remember when a driver performing a burnout was just an innocent celebration? 

Remember when simply taking a victory lap with the checkered flag was the only thing a competitor had to concern himself with, rather than worrying about jacking the steering wheel so far to the right to reset the rear axles on their cars following a race? 

Boy, times have changed. 

On Sunday following the Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway, multiple drivers — not only the winner — made serpentine moves on the backstretch on the cool down lap that would have been more natural through the esses of a road course — not a straightaway on a 1.5-mile oval. 

For the fans who haven’t paid attention, Joe Gibbs Racing crew chiefs routinely tell their drivers, “Remember the check list” following wins.

On Sunday at Chicagoland, crew chief Cole Pearn reminded Martin Truex Jr. repeatedly before his burnouts: “Remember to swerve.”

So what did that mean exactly? The bottom line is that competitors are spinning and swerving to make sure the rear toe returns to legal parameters before the cars are measure on the laser inspection station post-race.

NASCAR addresses the issue

NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Office Steve O’Donnell finally addressed the issue on Monday. When O’Donnell was a guest on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, he said NASCAR is looking into the practice.

“That’s why we put the rules in place that we did prior to the Chase,” O’Donnell said. “We don’t want to have to react to this.

“We want to see the best racing possible. We want the cars to come in and race straight up. Unfortunately, it’s part of racing, too, is to push the limits. So we have to find that balance. 

“What we want to be talking about is the racing on the track — not post-race, not what occurs on the cool down laps. We’ve got a job to do to with the team owners to talk about exactly the questions I’m being asked today — which is very fair — but that’s where we’re headed.”

Are rule changes enough?

On Sept. 7, NASCAR made a change to the rules making welded track bar mounts mandatory — rather than a moveable mount that had the potential to increase side force on the car by promoting right rear yaw. Some team managers contend the rule did not go far enough to discourage the practice. 

In an effort to maintain an even playing field entering prior to the Chase, O’Donnell added the sanctioning body assigned different level of penalties to equal the manipulation of the tolerances with the Laser Inspection Station (LIS) that would effect the skew on the car — including encumbered wins where the team would retain the trophy but not the points.

Following Sunday night's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, both the Nos. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and 78 (Truex) failed the post-race LIS. NASCAR officials characterized the infractions as lower level. 

“We worked with the teams prior to the Chase even starting to make the LIS part of post-race inspection,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve had that as part of post-race (inspection) for this year.

“Then we looked at potential ramping up the penalties as we headed into the Chase. We want to talk about the great competition on the track, winning cars moving on to the next round.

“In this case, we wanted to make sure that the penalties we have in place for the first 26 races really matched those in the Chase. But if someone were to go way outside of the boundaries, we would have to react and potentially make that an encumbered win.

“In both cases, with the 78 and 48, that wasn’t the case in terms of what their numbers were on the LIS post-race machine. We’re still going to look at that. We’re going to look at what happened at Richmond and now in Chicago.

“There’s still some discussions going on with our group. But again, it’s unfortunate because we want to be talking about what’s taking place on the racetrack and the momentum for the last nine (Chase races) versus post-race.”

O’Donnell said that NASCAR will take into consideration the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team failing the LIS two weeks in a row.

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Chicagoland
Location Chicagoland Speedway
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr.
Author Lee Spencer