NASCAR to outlaw shock absorber in question
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- NASCAR officials are changing the rules for rear shock absorbers after the cars of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch were initially too high after the race last week at Dover, Del.
"Everybody passed inspection and all of the shocks, in regard to parts and pieces, were completely legal," Nextel Cup director John Darby said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. "But the build of the shocks that the teams chose to use is a direction that we're not real fond of."
Darby said both cars were initially too high, but sank back within the required specifications as the shocks bled out air over a period of about 30 seconds.
"We hold a lot of responsibility for policing the sport, but, at the same time, we have to give the competitors the benefit of the doubt if we can, so that's why that process is repeated," Darby said. "Honestly, another reason it's repeated is so we're sure of what we're seeing, not something goofy, not a mistake."
No penalties were handed down, but Darby said a technical bulletin precluding the type of shock absorber used at Dover by race winner Johnson and runner-up Busch will be issued to the Cup crew chiefs sometime this weekend.
There was no rush to get the bulletin out because NASCAR hands out its own shocks and rear springs to the teams at Talladega and Daytona International Speedway, the only tracks where carburetor restrictor plates are used to slow the cars.
"From a rule book standpoint," Darby said, "these are the facts: the cars passed postrace inspection last Sunday night in regards to the shock absorbers themselves after being tested and disassembled and everything. All the parts and pieces are well within the confines of the rulebook.
"However, the shock build -- that is the assembly of the shock and what the shock is intended to do with that build -- it's not within the spirit and the intent of what our shock absorber rules surround. Simply put, we prefer that shock absorbers are used for shock absorbers, which is a device which controls the frequency of a spring, not to be a spring assist or a jack or anything else."
Darby said NASCAR officials were bothered most by how high the two cars were riding during the race.
"From watching the cars on the racetrack -- and a little bit from postrace inspection -- it was obvious that a procedure was developed to -- I won't even go as far as to say raise the car in the back -- but one thing we're pretty comfortable with is it surely wasn't traveling in a downward motion as most normal cars do."
Chad Knaus, crew chief for Johnson, who leads the points heading into Sunday's UAW-Ford 500, doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.
"I'm still kind of confused because I don't know what all the uproar is about because there was nothing wrong with the car," he said. "It met the height requirements, the shocks were perfectly legal, there wasn't anything wrong.
"If there was something wrong, there would have been fines, penalties, suspensions, whatever it is that they would deem necessary because they do such a good job of inspecting these cars."
The cars of both Johnson and his rookie teammate failed inspection early in the season at Las Vegas for a height violations -- Johnson's was too low and Busch's too high. NASCAR fined Knaus $35,000 and docked both Johnson and Jeff Gordon, listed as his car owner, 25 points, as well as fining Alan Gustafson, Busch's crew chief, $25,000 and docking the driver and car owner Rick Hendrick each 25 points. Two-week suspensions levied against the two crew chiefs were overturned by appeal.
"Without clear-cut evidence in the parts and pieces and the thing we do in inspection that would prove the cars to be outside the rulebook, we don't have the ability to react to that," Darby said when asked why there were no penalties this time.
Gordon, a four-time series champion, said he doesn't agree with NASCAR changing the shock rules.
"I think at the beginning of the year, when they make their rulebook and teams are out there and have been creative and figure out ways to make their car a little bit better through ingenuity, I think that's a part of the sport." he said.
"I haven't seen any dominance out there that really makes it look like 'Oh boy, now we've got a problem.' I think what's happened now is you've got teams complaining."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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