For the 3rd straight week, we’re talking NASCAR penalties. 2 weeks ago it was Noah Gragson’s penalty from Road America. Last week it was a no call on Christopher Bell’s lost wheel on pit road in Atlanta. Now, we’re discussing another lost wheel on pit road, but this time resulting in a penalty.
On Wednesday, NASCAR ruled that the No. 2 Ford team from Team Penske would be penalized from their lost wheel during last Sunday’s Ambetter 301 from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Austin Cindric hit pit lane after the conclusion of the second stage. Once he left his stall, the left front wheel came off and rolled down the rest of pit lane.
The infraction fell under the NASCAR Rule Book Sections 126.96.36.199 and 10.5.2.6 (loss or separation of an improperly installed tire/wheel from the vehicle). As a result, competition officials issued four-race suspensions to crew chief Jeremy Bullins, plus crew members Curtis Thompson (front tire changer) and Patrick Gray (jack).
That got people talking. Why is this any different than Bell’s?
NASCAR’s vice president of officiating and technical inspection, Elton Sawyer, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday that the No. 2 team’s infraction came under different circumstances.
“The amount of speed that the tire is carrying down pit road, did it impede another competitor — all of those things go into the decision-making and obviously the distance that one tire traveled on pit road, the 20 car versus what the 2 car was significantly different,” Sawyer told SiriusXM. “So although the optics are a loss of wheel on pit road, the two scenarios are quite a bit different. We’ll continue to dissect that and look at it. Again, we don’t want to over-officiate, but tires coming off is a huge safety concern and we just have to make sure that we’re handling that correctly. So we’ll continue to have dialogue internally … but they are two different situations for sure.”
Granted, I get his notion but I don’t like the gray area here. If one is a penalty then the other should be or vice versa.