Bumper Gate: Penske Racing Required to Change Front Bumper Covers at Talladega

During opening inspection at Talladega SuperSpeedway, Penske Racing’s Nationwide teams of Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. were asked to replace their upper front bumper covers. Any penalties are subject to be announced during the following week.

These covers are supplied by the manufacture and NASCAR has said that they would like the bumper covers to not be altered in any form.

As stated in section 20A-3.10A of the rule book, “front upper bumper cover must be from the respective OEM manufacturer and must be approved by NASCAR. The front lower bumper cover and rear bumper cover must be from an approved manufacturer and must be approved by NASCAR. Once approved, the front lower bumper covers may be used on all approved models. NASCAR officials may use bumper covers provided by the respective manufacturer as a guide in determining whether a competitor’s bumper cover conforms to the specifications of the NASCAR rule book. Unless otherwise authorized by the series director, cutting and reshaping of bumper covers will not be permitted.”

Last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, NASCAR confiscated the bumper covers from all three Richard Childress Racing cars and all three Turner Motorsports cars. Those bumper covers all had the ridge by the wheel well removed by either sanding or using bondo.

All six teams effected did not surfer a points penalty or a suspension, however each crew chief was fined $10,000 with the crew chief and car chief from each team on probation for the rest of the year.

Rumor had it that harsh penalties were not given because of the questions surrounding the technical process.

Elliott Sadler stated that the front bumper passed technical inspection in NASCAR’s research and development center twice after winning races this year and had gotten its sticker for passing inspection at Richmond before being asked to have it removed. Since the penalties, Sadler has said that his team has redone their wheel wells for coming races, including this weekend at Talladega, to match the rules.

In similar situation, Jimmie Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports team was penalized heavy back at the Daytona 500 for illegal c-posts. However after appealing and stating that the c-posts had been legal in previous inspections, most of the penalties were rescinded, including the 25-point penalty and six week suspension for both crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec.

NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said Tuesday that harsher penalties were not issued because teams are still learning about the new car.

“Cup is different than Nationwide and there is a scale there and with this car, we’ve worked through issues with teams and clarifying different things,” Pemberton said. “We felt like we’re still early in the process. We just barely started our second year with the car and we continue to try to do the right things for the particular garages. … We felt that penalty was best suited for those infractions.”

However, harsher penalties are expected down the road as teams learn the cars more.

“There will come a time when we’re done with the schooling process and we’ll move forward like we have in the past,” he said. “It was a big undertaking for those folks over the last 18 months or so to do all of this stuff, and we still feel like it’s best for us to work with them the best that we can.”