Post Race Inspections

     Dale Wilkerson                                                        May 2003 

             There are a couple of things that make me scratch my head in NASCAR right now: the reports of the top three series switching to Ethanol based fuels and a driver not passing post-race inspection retaining a victory.

                First, folks are excited about NASCAR planning to switch over to a gasoline/ethanol blend for the 2011 season. Reports have Hendrick Motorsports testing with this fuel already and the Rosch-Yates Engine Department getting ready to as well. More testing means more money for the team owners and with fuel injection also looming on the horizon, the money spent on research and development for ethanol powered race engines could only be a drop in the bucket.

                Since the price of gasoline for consumers has continued to flirt with the three dollar range here in the Carolinas, everyone is looking for any way to save a buck at the pumps. Tests have also shown that ethanol fuels burn cleaner than gasoline, but does it really save money for consumers on the public highways and will it save the race teams money?

                Street cars that are equipped to use E-85 fuel see a significant drop in mileage as opposed to using straight gasoline. So if a street car drops from 25 miles per gallon down to 18 miles per gallon on ethanol, what will happen to race engines? If a normal tank of racing fuel can last 65 laps, will that drop off to 44 laps?

                If my math is right, on normal racing fuel, a car racing at the typical mile and a half track would need to pit 5.3 times to reach the normal 500 mile race distance. If the racing version of the ethanol based fuel has the same effect on race cars as it does street cars, drivers would need to make pit stops for fuel 7.5 times per race. Race teams will still be feeling the pinch at the pump. As for the emissions, folks using E-85 have reported smoke from their cars on the highway.

                Second, if somebody is found to be illegal after winning a race, shouldn’t that win be stripped from them? Whether it is a kart racing track, a dirt track, or a NASCAR-sanctioned weekly track, if the race winner is found to be illegal, that driver and team forfeits their win. In the top three levels of NASCAR, race winners that are found illegal are docked a few points, they pay a fine, then go home to polish their new trophies.

                This is not new to Brad Keselowski and his shock absorbers at Talladega; this dates back many years. In 1983 Richard Petty paid a huge fine at Charlotte after being caught with a big motor, but he retained win #198. Mark Martin was called wrong after winning at Richmond in 1990; he kept the win but lost enough points that caused him to lose the championship to Dale Earnhardt.

                NASCAR has dropped the hammer on cars that were found illegal but did not win the race, just ask Carl Long about what happened to him at the All Star race last year.

                If a winner’s car fails post-race inspection, it should not matter if that driver is competing at Charlotte or Chester, Talladega or Travelers Rest, California or Carolina, Watkins Glen or Westminster, or Michigan or Myrtle Beach. If he is wrong, he should not be allowed to keep the win. Fans would rather know that the car that was declared the winner was legal.