Matt Kenseth: ‘We shouldn’t be talking about a laser machine after the race’

Matt Kenseth said a part broke during this celebratory burnout after his July victory at New Hampshire, causing his car to fail the laser.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Matt Kenseth believes in checking cars before and after Sprint Cup races but said the recent spate of laser inspection failures does raise questions about the current process.

“I wish there was a better way to do it,” Kenseth told a group of reporters Wednesday at NASCAR Plaza during a round of media promotion for Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “Because we should be sitting here talking about Chase Elliott almost getting his first win (at Chicagoland Speedway), Martin (Truex Jr.) coming through at the end and getting a win, the first round of the Chase and trying to win championships.

“We shouldn’t be sitting talking about a laser machine after the race.”

The laser inspection has dominated much of the discussion since Sunday night when the cars of Truex and Jimmie Johnson both failed the postrace laser inspection system, which ensures teams have a properly aligned rear suspension.

NASCAR was expected to announce penalties Wednesday for Truex and Johnson, who likely will be hit with a 10-point deduction that would damage his playoff hopes over the next two races of the first round. Because NASCAR ruled his win in the playoff opener still would count toward advancement, Truex will be in the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup regardless of a points penalty. Last week, NASCAR issued new rules delineating how finishes and wins can be “encumbered” — which would prevent teams from advancing in the Chase or winning a championship — based on the severity of the violation

To prevent teams from using “skew” to gain sideforce that provides an aerodynamic advantage, NASCAR has cracked down in recent years by mandating parts, torque levels and welding restrictions.

Kenseth believes there are enough safeguards in place that if a car passes the LIS in prerace, the postrace inspection can be done without the laser.

“I feel like if it’s right before it goes out for the race, and then when they take all the pieces apart after the race again and everything is legal and torqued right and the right pieces are in there, then I question whether we really need to roll across the (laser) platform afterward,” the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. “As long as something wasn’t done during the race — you don’t see someone come in and shorten track bars or do something to obviously cheat the situation. But that’s just my opinion. There might be way more to it than that.

“But obviously no one likes to see penalties after a race whether it’s a race winner, no matter where you finish. I don’t think the competitors like to see it. I know the fans don’t like to see it. I know the teams don’t like to see it. I know NASCAR doesn’t like to see it. If there’s a rule we’ve got to conform to it, and if there’s a better way to do it where they don’t have all that happen, I’m sure they’re looking into that.”

Truex joined Kenseth as the second winner whose car didn’t meet the LIS specifications in postrace since NASCAR began using the machines this season. Truex’s team has attributed its failure to damage sustained in contact with Kevin Harvick.

Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota was hit with a P3 penalty for failing the LIS after a July 17 victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kenseth attributed the infraction to a broken part during his celebratory burnout.

“(The team is) over 90% convinced it failed while I was doing a burnout,” he said. “I didn’t drive it in the fence like a lot of people do. I didn’t do anything. I just did a burnout and was told it was plenty safe, don’t worry about any of those shenanigans that some people were doing because we were all well within the rules.

“We took it apart, and NASCAR said, ‘Yeah, the part was bent. That’s why it didn’t pass,’ but they said it still doesn’t pass, which is the way it is.”

Kenseth said teams can ensure that their cars meet the strict specifications required by the LIS, “but they’re going to be giving up some performance. You could just make sure it’s way, way, way, way right. Well, everybody is trying to get to the edge of the rules, and you go through before the race, and it’s right. But man, you race for 4 hours. This measuring things in thousandths of an inch … you can’t just be so conservative to give it up. You’ve got to be able to get right next to the rule. The hard part is you get it through and have it to the rule, but yet everything moves a little bit during the race.

“I’m pretty sure if they said if it didn’t meet the LIS, you could never race again the rest of your life, that everybody would pass afterward. So there’s a way to physically get it to pass afterward, but how much performance are you going to give up? So I don’t know. I wish it wasn’t that technical.”