With all the emphasis NASCAR has put on a level playing field in the last few years, there may be an area lacking their attention, at least according to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After the race at Chicagoland, second place finisher Chase Elliott was penalized after NASCAR caught the crew working on an area of tape on the rear spoiler of the car after the race. The tape was removed before NASCAR officials saw it; but they later caught the infraction on reviewing video.
Elliott’s second place finish was ruled encumbered, he was docked championship points, and his crew chief was suspended.
Earlier this season Joey Logano won the race at Richmond, only to have it encumbered after being penalized for a suspension infraction after a post-race inspection.
Logano’s infraction after winning the race has been a rarity. And there may be good reason for it. Winners in NASCAR for many years have celebrated their victory with a burnout. A smoky display that many times blows a tire, and damages the car. Damage that according to some could be hiding something.
Among those is Earnhardt Jr. The sport’s most popular driver is retiring from full time Cup racing after this season. Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway wondered why NASCAR has not done more to police the practice of post-race burnouts.
“I have never blown out a tire on purpose,” Earnhardt said. “But, we have been doing burnouts for 30 years it seems like. It just seems like the Gen-6 car once everybody started figuring out how to trick the underbody and things like that everybody blows the tires out.”
“It is just hard for me to see the logic in suspending a crew chief, car chief for some tape flapping on the spoiler when the winner drives into Victory Lane with the rear of the car tore all to hell,” he added. “I don’t see how that doesn’t come across anybody’s conscious or common sense. I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense to me. And it never has.
“I have been kind of waiting all this time for NASCAR to eventually say look you know we would just rather you guys not blow the tires out. They talk about not wanting to be the ‘fun police’ being the ‘fun police’ is not on the radar of their damn problems. You know, I don’t think they need to worry about… that is a cop out in my opinion. But, I think that you can do burnouts without blowing the tires out. That happened for years. But, with the Gen-6 car maybe even with the COT, but I don’t remember it too much with the COT.”
“The first Pocono race,” he said after being reminded that Ryan Blaney was the last driver to not blow out a tire after his win at Pocono. “I mean will they blow them out at the end of every race during the Playoffs? Is that just the new norm? It didn’t really bother me until I thought about it and I’m like ‘the No. 24 is going to get suspended crew chief, car chief for this tape mess and the winner of the race is riding into Victory Lane with the damn rear of the car tore all to hell. You can’t even tech it.’ And I love Martin (Truex, Jr.) and it’s not about Martin. I mean every guy out there has done it. I don’t know that will be a very popular opinion about it, but that is how I feel.”
Earnhardt said it’s time for NASCAR to look at the practice.
“I just feel like that they should step-up,” he said. “They’re the governing body.”
“It’s obvious it’s done intentionally. It’s not unintentional. And you cannot tech the race car. They have to jack it up and put tires on it.”
“If you’re watching the video of these crewman trying to fix that tape on that spoiler of the No. 24 car, imagine what the hell’s going on with the car that gets to jack it up and put tires on it before it can go across the LIS. We could go on and on about it.”
“It’s something I don’t really got to worry about no more after the end of this season (laughs). But, I’ve been feeling this way about the blowouts for a long time. It’s like damn, why don’t they just tell them to stop. You can do a damn burnout without blowing the tires out. Look at pretty much every win in 2000 all the way through the CoT, you know? There are a lot of burnouts. You have to deliberately do that. It’s not like oh, my bad, blew my tire. I mean it’s deliberate. So, it tells me there’s some purpose behind it.”
“I don’t know why it’s so hard for NASCAR to say, look man, do some donuts. You can do donuts without blowing the tires out. But, you don’t have to blow the tires. But until they tell them not to do it, it’s fair game. But, it just upset me with what happened to Chase (Elliott) and how they sort of got zeroed-in on when all this is sort of going on right under everybody’s nose. It doesn’t make sense.”