Bristol: Ford crew chief on penalites

In the past two weeks, the National Stock Car Racing Commission has had two hearings on penalties that were issued following the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series weekend at Las Vegas. Some of the Ford crew chiefs spoke about what their...

In the past two weeks, the National Stock Car Racing Commission has had two hearings on penalties that were issued following the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series weekend at Las Vegas. Some of the Ford crew chiefs spoke about what their expectations are now as far as post-race infractions prior to practice Friday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway.

JIMMY FENNIG, Crew Chief - No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE AS FAR AS WHAT AREAS YOU CAN WORK IN AND HOW FAR YOU CAN PUSH A GRAY AREA? "I don't know. You would think so, but after Mike Helton's statement at Atlanta in the driver's meeting, I've got a hunch that you've got to be careful about what you do because the next penalty is gonna be way more severe than what the Hendrick guys got."

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO HIS STATEMENT IN THE DRIVER'S MEETING? "My philosophy has always been that when Mike Helton talks, you listen. He gave us the same thing about traction control years ago at Martinsville. When he says something and he's mad, and you hear it in his voice, you better pay attention because Mike is all business."

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN THE HENDRICK SUSPENSIONS WERE OVERTURNED BY THE COMMISSION? "The suspension wasn't the right way to fine the guys to start with, in my opinion. I don't know what would be right or wrong for a fine, but the 25 points is nothing and the fine is nothing. You look back and you say, 'OK, what did Chad Knaus get?' In reality he got third-place points, because he got the bonus points for winning, and $400,000 for winning. That's one way a guy could look at it and say, 'OK, I can go ahead and cheat and take third-place points all day long and I'll never lose money.' So that's why I think Mike jumped in and did something that's gonna be more severe."

WERE THINGS STARTING TO GET OUT OF HAND? "I don't know. I think what I'd like to see NASCAR do is before somebody gets caught with something, they should put in a policy or over the winter come up with rules and suspensions or fines or points. Put something down like, 'OK, here's what's gonna happen before the fact.' They always do it after the fact, but let us know before the fact that we're gonna lose 100 points and lose the race and that's that. But do it before the fact. That's how I would do it."

DO YOU HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT YOU CAN DO AND WHAT YOU CAN'T? "No, because NASCAR can do what they want. It's their game. It's just a case of how far do you really want to test NASCAR. That's what you've got to look at."

YOUR JOB IS TO TEST THOSE GRAY AREAS, RIGHT? "That's my job, but I've also got to make sure that we don't lose 100 points. Like I said, after Mike talked in Atlanta the next guy that gets nailed with something, I don't think it's gonna be pretty."

MICHAEL "FATBACK" MCSWAIN, Crew Chief - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH WHAT AREAS YOU CAN WORK ON? "No, but I'm a little disappointed with the way that was all handled. I mean, he did it enough to get the penalty and the fine and the points, but he didn't do it enough for the suspension. I don't know. We just need to lay out the rules, man. What are they? What can I do? What can't I do? Can I do this? As long as I just give up some money I'll do this. I mean, what are the rules? Cherokee Speedway down here in Gaffney, I think you drive by it headed to Atlanta. If you're illegal down there, you go to last. You don't lose 25 points. You don't lose a little bit of money. You lose all your money and you get no points. Where's the window? What do you do?"

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A LIST OF WHAT THE FINES AND PENALTIES WOULD BE FOR CERTAIN INFRACTIONS? "It seems like that's where we're at. It should be a set deal, but it's like we need a menu because there's no consistency on what the reaction is."

PAT TRYSON, Crew Chief - No. 6 Viagra Taurus

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH WHAT YOU CAN AND CAN'T DO WITH THE CAR? "I think it's the same process it's always been. If you appeal it, you never know what's gonna happen. It's kind of confusing that two guys got theirs reduced and the other guy didn't. OK, you can say that his was intentional, but if you're putting six rounds in your right-rear, that's pretty intentional too when you know you're only allowed a quarter inch. I just know that we're gonna be real careful to try to make sure that we're not anywhere in those areas. I think the biggest thing is that everybody knows right now they better be pretty careful. We can't afford to lose the points. It's not so much about suspensions and stuff as it is losing points."

NOW THAT YOU CREW CHIEF FOR MARK IN THE BUSCH SERIES AS WELL DO YOU WORRY THAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS THERE YOU COULD BE SUSPENDED FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS AND MAYBE MISS THE CUP RACES AS WELL? "No because the Busch Series is a separate deal. If something happens in the Busch Series I get suspended over there and not over here. They're two different series. You just have to really be careful with your adjustments nowadays. We don't have the room that we had before. They're running a lot of different springs, so one round with a stiffer spring is a lot different than one round with a soft spring and that puts you a lot closer to the edge."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NASCAR COME OUT WITH WHAT THE PENALTIES WOULD BE FOR CERTAIN INFRACTIONS BEFORE NEXT SEASON? "To me, it's a no-brainer. If you're low, you finish 43rd. If you're high, you finish 43rd. But they're not gonna do that and that's OK, so then they've got to figure out what they're gonna do."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mike Helton , Chad Knaus