Crew chiefs receive fines, as Zero Tolerance continues

With the competition fierce, and the rewards enormous, the temptation to explore the "gray area" for and advantage is common place in the high-stakes game of Winston Cup racing. The old adage, "it's only cheating if you get caught", may not be...

With the competition fierce, and the rewards enormous, the temptation to explore the "gray area" for and advantage is common place in the high-stakes game of Winston Cup racing.

The old adage, "it's only cheating if you get caught", may not be as predominant as it once way, but the technological advance in sport have made the inspection process in the series a long and tedious process.

At Daytona, the inspection area is known as the "room of doom" as NASCAR inspectors scrutinize the cars to make sure they are with in the rules.

Racecars consist of tens of thousands of components, each of which is required to meet sanctioning specification. There will always be a few who push the envelope in an effort to pick up a tenth of a second a lap.

NASCAR began cracking down on the pushing of the limit last season as several teams were fined monetary and then with championships points violations that may have or may not have given an advantage. Most notably were Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Green.

NASCAR has taken the stance of zero tolerance in the 2003 season. Veteran Rusty Wallace made headlines this week as he publicly accused teams of cheating at Daytona, and being successful at not getting caught.

Harsh words, considering Wallace was disqualified from his Daytona qualifying race, due to an illegal carburetor.

Regardless of Wallace's finger pointing, seven crew chiefs had to break out their checkbooks after Daytona.

Peter Sospenzo, crew chief for the No. 25 car of Joe Nemechek, was fined $2,000 for two rear coil spring mounts that did not meet NASCAR specifications. Sospenzo is not a new comer to receiving fines. He was suspended in 2000 for the detection of fuel additive when he worked for the No 12 Penske team.

Dennis Connor, crew chief for the No. 0 car of Jack Sprague, was fined $1,000 for external probe heaters that did not conform to NASCAR rules.

James Ince, crew chief for the No. 10 car of Johnny Benson, was fined $500 for underpans that did not meet NASCAR specifications.

When asked to comment on the fine, Benson was not concerned. "It could not have been that bad, if they only fined us five hundred bucks".

Crew chiefs Chris Carrier, Mike Beam, and Anthony Gibson were each fined five hundred dollars for fuel filters that did not conform to NASCAR rules.

No teams lost championship points for the infraction, and it should be noted that none of the teams involved in the penalties finished better than fourteenth at Daytona.

Money collected from the fines is added to the driver point's fund, and distributed at the end of the season.

Legendary car owner Junie Donlavey indicated that cheating has always been a part of the sport, but also feels it is not like the old days.

"I can remember a time when we would finish third, and it was a win as far as we were concerned. There were two teams that had such an advantage, but that was just the way it was"

Whether or not teams use parts that do not fully conform to NASCAR guidelines by oversight or by an attempt to gain track speed is debatable.

What is not debatable is that as the sport rises to the second most popular in the nation, NASCAR is under intense pressure to assure the level of competition is equal and fair and will continue to issue penalties on the team that try to improve there position in garage, and not on the track.

-thomas chemris

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Rusty Wallace , Joe Nemechek , Jeff Green , Johnny Benson , Jimmie Johnson , Jack Sprague , Mark Martin , Chris Carr