NASCAR wants teams to cut down on rear adjustments

Updated: May 29, 2008, 7:54 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR sent a memo to Sprint Cup teams this week putting a limit on the amount of rear adjustment being made to create more downforce and sideforce.

Teams have been increasingly adjusting the rear housing in an attempt to close the gap on the No. 99 car of Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards, who has won three times on intermediate tracks this season.

The best way to describe it is a hook and ladder fire truck. You're going straight down the road and that guy in the back turns the wheel to the right and the back of the fire truck goes over to the right. That's essentially what's going on.

-- Sprint Cup series director John Darby

The adjustment basically has the back tires turned to the right with a rear toe adjustment, allowing the car to enter the turns with more speed. It's not visibly noticeable on the turns, but on the straightaway the car appears to be crabbing down the track sideways.

Or as competitors say, yawed out.

"The best way to describe it is a hook and ladder fire truck," series director John Darby said on Friday at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "You're going straight down the road and that guy in the back turns the wheel to the right and the back of the fire truck goes over to the right. That's essentially what's going on."

Darby said teams have been adjusting the rear end in excess of two degrees. NASCAR limited the adjustment to one degree.

Mike Ford, the crew chief for Denny Hamlin, said the way NASCAR measures the adjustment at the track won't give a true reading. He said teams still can get away with being over the limit unless the rear housing is completely removed for measurement.

His fear is that a winning team could be within the rules at the track and then found guilty when measured at the R&D Center where the housing would be removed.

"That one degree can be very misleading," he said.

Ford was against the limit in general because it was within the rules given at the start of the season. He applauded teams that have found ways to take advantage of it.

"That's what competition is," Ford said. "That's what racing is. This is just another change in a long list of putting you in a tighter box.

"The cars don't turn, so you have to do radical changes to get them to turn. With every rule it's putting things more and more into the driver's hands."

Tony Eury Jr., the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., doesn't believe the rule will affect racing much.

"Some of them [competitors] were over the edge," he said. "We were real close to it, so it won't hurt us. I just don't think this will make that much difference."

Jeff Burton, who is second in points behind Kyle Busch, agreed.

"We were all over the place to be quite honest," he said. "It won't have any major impact on us as far as what I think about the rule. In some respect making the rule makes it easier. Whenever you start doing that you get into the issues of breaking axles.

"We weren't way out there like some people were because we were afraid of breaking axles."

Two-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said his team was right at the one-degree adjustment before the memo.

"It looked like two or three cars were really yawed out," he said. "This new rule is putting everybody back to where we are."

Edwards doesn't expect the rule to affect his team dramatically, saying the competition already had closed the gap significantly.

"From what I understand it doesn't change what we are doing," he said. "Some of those cars were pretty wild."

The memo came two weeks after four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon said the governing body needed to take a closer look at how far teams were going.

"When cars can't even get on the scales because they're running sideways, it's something they need to address," Gordon said at the time.

Gordon applauded NASCAR's decision on Thursday.

"If they didn't do something it was going to get completely out of control," he said.

Darby said NASCAR doesn't want to totally eliminate what teams are doing "because it's a valuable adjustment."

"I'm sure everybody watched the 77 car [Penske Racing's Sam Hornish Jr.] run around here last week. He was in excess of two degrees. That gets to the obnoxious side."

Hornish, who was 34th in points with only one finish inside the top 20 through the first 11 races, finished seventh in Saturday's All-Star race that was a non-points event.

Competitors and fans commented afterwards about how sideways Hornish's car appeared on the straightaways.

"To do that requires a different axle shaft and drive plate," Darby said. "Up until this point all it takes is a toe adjustment of the housing. If you go that far, you start taking out very common, very simple, very reliable in-stock parts and putting some exotic stuff in there.

"Now we just raised the bar by what it cost to do it by triple. That's why we put the limit in there."

Ford doesn't buy the cost angle, reminding how much costs were above normal last year to introduce the new car.

"Competition pays the price every time there is a rule change," he said. "With this car you have to be so aggressive with the setup because you don't have much to work with.

"To take away something you have to give something back. Nothing ever gets given back."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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