|Everything is on display in the NASCAR garage|
One of the stories coming out of Texas this week concerns the possibility that teams from Hendrick Motorsports, situated in the garage-area alongside the cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, tattled on the Penske teams to NASCAR officials after noticing some peculiar rear end parts.
NASCAR confiscated the parts and forced changes to the cars prior to the race. And on Wednesday it came down hard on Penske Racing. Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe was fined $100,000 and suspended for the next six points races and the All-Star race. In addition, car chief Jerry Kelly, team engineer Brian Wilson and team manager Travis Geisler received the same suspension. Logano crew chief Todd Gordon received the same fine and suspension as Wolfe and car chief Raymond Fox and team engineer Samuel Stanley were also suspended. Keselowski and Logano are docked 25 championship points and the cars 25 championship points.
Ouch. That’s gonna hurt. Not even Penske Racing is so deep that the loss of the top three people responsible for a car won’t be felt on race day. Penske has appealed the penalties, but don’t hold your breath.
So what of Hendrick Motorsports? Are they tattle-tells? Squealers? Rats? No way. Not in NASCAR. In fact, it’s designed to work that way. Self-policing they call it.
A while back I had an opportunity to interview Humpy Wheeler for a book on the 1964 Indy 500. Long before becoming President of Charlotte Motor Speedway and one of the best promoters in the sport, Wheeler worked in public relations for Firestone and attended the 500 for the first time in ‘64. I asked him what surprised him most about the Speedway and he quickly responded “Gasoline Alley.” The whole concept of a private garages where a team could lock the door and work on its car in secrecy was new to Wheeler, who was used to the wide-open spaces of NASCAR garages.
“I thought Holy Cow, there is no way the (USAC) officials can possibly keep up with what is going on with these cars when the doors are closed,” Wheeler said. “In NASCAR, most of the cheating wasn’t caught by the inspectors, but by one competitor tipping off an official that so-and-so was doing something wrong. I couldn’t help wondering how anyone kept the (Indy) mechanics from cheating.”
Ironically, it was Keselowski who last year called out Hendrick Motorsports in general – and the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson in particular – for pushing the limit on rear end configuration. So there’s a little bit a payback involved here.
But more than anything else, it's simply a way of life in the NASCAR garage.