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NASCAR to outlaw shock absorber in question

10/1/2005

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."