Flipping their lid
Edwards, No. 99 team penalized for infraction found after Las Vegas win
Team owner Jack Roush denied accusations that his team intentionally rigged a small bolt to “back out” of an oil reservoir lid in an attempt to gain additional downforce in one of his cars at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
He also said that he was unsure whether Roush Fenway Racing would appeal penalties levied against its No. 99 team after driver Carl Edwards’ Sprint Cup series win at LVMS.
Edwards was docked 100 driver points, Roush 100 owner points and crew chief Bob Osborne was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races after NASCAR officials discovered during postrace inspection that the oil reservoir lid was not properly attached, allowing air to flow into the cockpit. Additionally, should Edwards qualify for the Chase, he would not be awarded the 10-point bonus for the win.
Armed with the piece in question, Roush, 65, said March 7 that the unattached reservoir lid was the result of a fastener backing out due to vibration in the car during the race. Earlier in the week, Roush Fenway Racing President Geoff Smith had explained it as “vibration harmonics generated by the car and the race track during the race.”
“It would be the dumbest thing we could possibly do since every NASCAR inspector on the race track is looking for that panel to be loose based on what the guys did at Daytona,” Roush said.
Five Nationwide Series teams were penalized after the season-opening race in Daytona for a similar infraction. Three of those penalties were subsequently amended, one was rescinded and one was upheld.
“We were not culpable, it was not our intent, we did not have the expectation that that thing would come off,” Roush said, “but apparently there’s enough cheaters out there that have been playing in this area that they know absolutely for sure how much it’s worth and the fact that there’s an advantage.
“I support the fact that Carl says he would have won that race with or without that panel being loose. But if it is a case of the panel being loose that gave us the advantage and if they want to react to that, that’s fine. It’s OK. It’s acceptable, just do it every time.”
Chief engineer Chris Andrews, with assistance from general manager Robbie Reiser, replaced Osborne atop Edwards’ pit box at Atlanta.
“The only reason I would consider coming back and making an appeal ... if we verify that the crew chief wasn’t culpable and he didn’t have intent to have that happen, that’s kind of a death sentence for him for six races,” Roush said.
NASCAR’s John Darby said it is not up to officials to determine what caused the infraction, only whether or not the lid was in place when it was inspected.
“Sure it could have [worked itself loose], but it doesn’t change the result,” Darby, competition director for the Sprint Cup series, said. “I could accidentally be 100 pounds too light; I could be accidentally too low ... because I didn’t tighten a screw.
“There’s no possible way for NAS-CAR to look at intent. We just can’t do it. An appeals commission can look at that stuff. But NASCAR, there’s no way possible that we can let intent enter into the deal.”
Darby said it would not be practical for officials to check every nut and bolt before, during and after a race. “Some-where in the process, as the rulebook very clearly explains, the responsibility of being correct is placed on the team,” he said.
Competitors and team officials said the loose lid could result in as much as 100 pounds or more of additional down-force.
Loosening the lid on the oil tank reservoir, they said, is just one more way teams are trying to gain an aerodynamic edge.
“If you go to any owner, any engineer, any driver, any crew chief and ask them is that an advantage, heck yeah it’s an advantage,” Elliott Sadler said. “I’ve been doing that half of my career. When driving the [Wood Brothers Racing] 21 and [Robert Yates Racing] 38 car, we pulled the shifter boot off and the oil tank lid off until NASCAR started to tech it. It’s 100 pounds of downforce.”
Driver Ryan Newman, who holds an engineering degree, said he wasn’t buying the “vibration harmonics” explanation, adding that his Penske Racing Dodge “vibrates the same way and my bolts were still in good condition. If that was the case, they need to pick a different style bolt or grade of bolt so that it didn’t happen.”
The penalty dropped Edwards, a winner of two of the season’s first three races, from first to seventh in the point standings.
“It’s really simple. Something came loose,” Edwards said. “It wasn’t legal. We got our penalty. I swear on whatever we can swear on that it was not an intentional thing.
“... It doesn’t change anything I’m going to do. I just go out and drive the race car as fast as I can.”