To penalize or not to penalize, apparently that was the question for NASCAR this week.
Yet it was not one that should have been asked.
NASCAR gets into a lot of trouble because many of its rules and decisions seem to fall into a “gray area” where exact determinations of right and wrong are hard to come by.
However, when NASCAR officials announced last weekend that roof-flap spacers had been confiscated (and tagged and placed on display) from 31 Sprint Cup and Nationwide series teams at Daytona, the rationale given was pretty clear cut.
NASCAR rules say the teams must construct the roof flaps using the manufacturer-produced kits they come in.
It was clear that 15 Cup teams and 16 Nationwide teams failed to do that. That, of course, raised the prospect of a laundry list of penalties to be issued this week.
Instead on Wednesday, NASCAR took a pass.
“Based upon our inspection and subsequent review, it was our determination that the functionality and safety aspects of the roof flaps were not compromised and the on track competition would not be impacted,” NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, said in a statement.
Nice explanation but isn’t that basically an admission NASCAR took intent into account in whether to penalize all the teams?
That’s important because NASCAR has in the past shied away from such determinations, particularly when dealing with what are usually black-and-white rules.
What’s the moral of this story?
Even the rules NASCAR has which seem crystal clear are open to interpretation.
But is that really a surprise?
Shepherd can set record: Morgan Shepherd, entered in the No. 52 Toyota this weekend at New Hampshire, is scheduled to make his first Cup series start since 2006. At 71, he would become the oldest driver to start a Cup race.
The previous oldest driver to start a Cup race was Jim Fitzgerald who was 65 years, six months and 20 days when he started at Riverside, Calif., on June 21, 1987.
More money on the line: Saturday’s Nationwide race at New Hampshire is the second of four consecutive events that comprise the “Dash 4 Cash” bonus program that awards $100,000 to the highest-finishing of four eligible drivers in each of the four races.
Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Sam Hornish Jr. are eligible for the bonus this weekend. Sadler won it last weekend at Daytona.
HMS makes donation for first responders: Hendrick Motorsports has made a $5,000 donation to assist New Hampshire Motor Speedway in hosting first responders and their families this weekend.
The donation was made in memory of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who was killed April 18 during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Collier’s brother, Andrew, is a machinist in the Hendrick Motorsports engine department.
Preece set for double duty: Ryan Preece will make his debut in the Nationwide Series at New Hampshire on Saturday in the No. 8 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet. He is also entered in Saturday’s Whelen Modified race at the track.
The native of Berlin, Conn., has three wins in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and five in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series during the past month.
Butler to make Nationwide debut: Brett Butler, who made 19 career starts in the Truck series with the most recent in 2010, will make his debut in the Nationwide Series this weekend driving the No. 24 Toyota for SR2 Motorsports.
Ambrose to run Mid-Ohio: Cup driver Marcos Ambrose has entered Aug. 17 Nationwide series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and will drive the No. 9 Ford fielded by Richard Petty Motorsports. Seth Barbour will be the crew chief for the team.