NASCAR executive answers questions about inspection, issues from Chicagoland race

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While Sunday’s Chase opener saw Martin Truex Jr. win at Chicagoland Speedway, much of the focus turned to the cars of Truex and Jimmie Johnson failing the Laser Inspection Station after the race.

NASCAR confirmed that both were off within the lowest range that triggers a penalty, thus both teams could face a P2 penalty later this week.

Nearly each Monday after a NASCAR race weekend, a series official, typically Steve O’Donnell, appears on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to discuss the weekend’s events. O’Donnell, the executive vice president and chief racing development officer, was on Monday’s show and was asked several questions about inspection after the race and other issues. Here are his comments:

— On the Laser Inspection Station:

    O’DONNELL: “It’s something that we worked with the teams prior to the Chase even starting to make the LIS part of postrace inspection, so we’ve had that as part of postrace for this year. Then we looked at potentially ramping up the penalties as we headed into the Chase. We want to talk about the great competition on the track, winning cars moving on to the next round. In this case we wanted to make sure the penalties we had in place for the first 26 races really matched those in the Chase, but if someone were to go way outside the boundaries we would have to react and potentially make that an encumbered win. In both cases, the 78 and the 48, that wasn’t the case in terms of what their numbers were on the LIS postrace machine. We’re still going to look at that. Got to give a look at what happened at Richmond and now in Chicago. So still some discussions going on with our group. Again, it’s unfortunate we want to be talking about what’s taking place on the racetrack.

— O’Donnell confirmed that teams get a second chance go through the Laser Inspection Station after the race to pass:

O’DONNELL: “There are variances built into the system ahead of time, so it’s something we feel confident in. In this case, we didn’t see the results we needed to. We’ll go back and talk about that today and tomorrow at R&D (Center).’’

— On the purpose of the Laser Inspection Station and what is being inspected:

O’DONNELL:  “It’s really certain parts. We’ve got various stages of inspection that we do throughout he weekend. This is one as we look to implement newer technologies and look at skew and a number of different aspects on the car. We use it to set up the beginning of the race weekend, make sure it’s right and then look at tolerances and work with the race teams throughout the weekend to make sure they’re within tolerances. It’s something that everybody passes, obviously, before the race and we’ve got to look at it to make sure we’re as fair as possible postrace.

— Truex got hit by Kevin Harvick during the race. Is that factored into LIS measurements?

O’DONNELL: “We’ve had damaged cars go through before and pass, so it is something we look at. Each case, as I’ve said before, is unique but it is something that we also do factor in prior to any failures and then we have conversations that will take place again today.

— On if there is something for multiple infractions after that race compared to how multiple warnings in inspections before qualifying and the race can lead to a team losing its pit stall pick (in light of Truex’s car failing LIS a second race in a row):

O’DONNELL: “That actually exists. We do have a multiplier that is in effect and is a part of the rule book. If teams fail a certain aspect of any rule, it can be multiplied with offenses that take place kind of week after week. That is something that we’ll be taking a look at here.’’

— On the issue of the cars swerving wildly on the cool-down lap and how much of a concern that is for NASCAR:

O’DONNELL: “That’s absolutely something we’re looking into, and that’s why we put the rules in place that we did prior to the Chase. We don’t want to have react to this. We want to see the best racing possible. We want the cars to come in and race straight up. Unfortunately, it’s part of racing to push the limits. So we’ve got to find that balance. What we want to be talking about again is the racing on the track, not postrace, not what happens in cool-down laps. We’ve got a job to do with the team owners to talk about exactly the questions I’m being asked today, which is very fair. That’s where we’re headed versus talking about the terrific action heading into the final nine races and that’s what we need to be working on and not talking about how do we potentially get around rules or what are the rules and make sure again that we talk about what is happening on track.’’

— On the unapproved adjustment on Harvick’s car that forced that car to start at the rear of the field.

O’DONNELL: “It’s typical of what happened’s really every race when cars go through inspection and head to pit road and the car is really not to be touched. In this case, we believe it had been and put one of the templates on it and made the decision for the car to go to the rear of the field. Certainly a challenge but you saw Kevin put on a heck of a show in terms of passing a number of cars, got caught up, unfortunately, in that one caution but passed a number of cars all day long as did the 78.

— On the situation where Harvick was deemed to be a lap behind the leader on a pit stop when the caution came out:

O’DONNELL: “I think they contested (it) on the radio because if you don’t have a video screen right in front of you it feels like you had to have beaten the leader. When you looked at the camera shot we had right off the start/finish basically and where the leader was, you can see that the 48 was the leader at the time and the 78 was just behind. So it was the correct call.’’