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Jeremy Clements: Hawkeye system will keep big teams from doing ‘trick stuff’ to get ahead

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Jeremy Clements and his family owned Xfinity Series team been doing a lot of “running around” in the weeks leading up to the 2018 season.

Clements’ team has been “burning some gas” as they get their No. 51 Chevrolet compatible with NASCAR’s new Hawkeye inspection system, which will debut at Daytona International Speedway.

“Coming from a small team, going to that (Hawkeye system), we’ve been to that of course (at the NASCAR Research and Development Center),” Clements said Saturday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Front Stretch.” “Our cars all failed like first time, each time. We had to go back to the body guy. He had to take another swing at it and he got her fixed up. It’s definitely been tough at first to be honest. We don’t have any of that stuff.”

Ryan Newman said at the NASCAR Media tour that Richard Childress Racing spent $350,000 to install its own Hawkeye inspection rig at its shop in Welcome, North Carolina.

The process includes 17 cameras and eight projectors that will produce a 3D model of the car. That is then compared to the CAD model of the car to determine how far away it is from the tolerance.

Without anywhere near the kind of funding RCR enjoys, JRC has trekked to NASCAR’s R&D center to become familiar with the process.

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But unlike most teams, Clements’ isn’t based in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area and neither is their body specialist.

The team’s shop is based out of Spartanburg, South Carolina, a 75-mile trip one way from Charlotte. The specialist is near RCR’s shop, which is roughly an hour northeast of Charlotte.

“He’s up a good ways,” Clements said. “We’ve been running around a lot lately. My guys have been working a lot of hours and going back and forth. It’s been a problem for sure, but I think it’ll get better for sure. Too early to tell right now … It’s going to take it a few races to get all sorted out.”

When it is firmly established, Clements believes it will “level the playing field” for small teams like his, which earned its first NASCAR win last year at Road America and made the Xfinity playoffs.

“I don’t think they (big teams) can do all the trick stuff they were doing,” Clements said. “Now I’m sure they’ll figure out other ways to do other things, but that’s the name of the game.”

The new inspection process isn’t the only new element NASCAR has introduced that Clements’ team will have to adapt to.

NASCAR is limiting the number of pit crew members allowed over the wall during pits stops from six to five. It has also mandated the use of standardized pit guns over a guns created by teams.

Clements sees the standardized pit gun as significant move that will help his team.

“That’s good because that was getting kind out of hand,” said Clements, who estimated the team must pay $300 to rent a gun. “Only drawback to that is just, I hate to say it, but the money we got to spend for that.

“We’re trying not trying to spend in every direction, but that’s the only negative to that part. But I like that the guns are supposed to be all equal because they were definitely getting out of hand.”

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Watch: An inside look at how the Hawkeye Inspection process works

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This season marks the full implementation of the new Hawkeye inspection system in NASCAR.

The camera-based inspection station replaces the old laser inspection station and the claw template station teams had to pass through before and after races.

NASCAR has released the above video detailing what goes into the new process.

When a car is subjected to the process, it is scrutinized by eight projectors and 17 cameras. One of the cameras is beneath the car.

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The Hawkeye system in use. (NASCAR)

The projectors will display patterns of lights, lines and dots on the cars that the cameras will track.

The process will take roughly 30 seconds to complete.

During the 30 seconds, the cameras have captured enough data to create a “point cloud,” which makes a 3D model of the car. That is then compared to the CAD model of the car to determine how far away the car is from the tolerance.

Teams will be given a .150-inch tolerance on metal surfaces and a .200-inch tolerance on glass surfaces.

In the video, John Probst, NASCAR’s managing director of competition and innovation, says teams will not be allowed on track to practice until they’ve passed the Hawk-Eye system.

If for some reason the system were to fail and could not be used, the old LIS and template system would be used.

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