Teams were attempting to confuse the optical inspection scans by using dark colors on the edges of bodywork pieces
For 2018, NASCAR rolled out shiny new modern technology. The laser inspection station was replaced with an optical scanning station. Seventeen cameras scan the entire body of the car to ensure cars are within the tolerances of the rules.
Any change in NASCAR is an opportunity for teams to capitalize and find the advantages. They will push every boundary available. This optical scanning station is designed to narrow the gap. But, it’s also seen as an opportunity.
With the optical scanning station, there’s two types of scans. Black and dark colored cars get a high resolution scan. Light colored cars get a low resolution scan.
NASCAR claims there’s no difference between the two types of scans. The high resolution scan just takes significantly longer as it measures 1.2 million data points. So, officials only want to use that when they absolutely need to. However, while the the low resolution scan is quicker isn’t good enough to see all the points on the dark bodywork.
Teams had a lightbulb idea. They began placing black bodywork and graphics in crucial areas while the bulk of the car remained light in color. NASCAR would use the low resolution scan for these cars. In the teams mind, this was a way to trick the scanner.
Teams believe this makes their cars appear slightly narrower when they roll through inspection. So, it allow them to push the boundaries slightly further.
News of teams attempting to trick the NASCAR inspection station in this fashion broke in mid-July. More and more cars began showing up to the race track with black body trim.
The most common example of this is around the rear wheel wells and corners of the rear bumpers. Multiple teams have been arriving to the track with white or light colored body work. Then, around the rear wheel they will add a 2-3″ black stripe all the way around the wheels.
JTG Daugherty Racing ran white rear fenders until Kentucky Speedway on July 14th. From that point on, the installed a black stripe along the entire edge of both sides of their cars.
It’s not specific to any one manufacture and JTG is far from the only team that see’s this as an advantage when entering the inspection tent. Roush Fenway Racing began doing a similar thing to their cars as well.
Other teams aren’t being as obvious as using black fender stripes. Instead, they just use a gradient wrap to accomplish the same thing. The car is mostly light in color, then in these areas the cars the wrap design fades to a darker color.
“NASCAR is fully confident in the ability of the Optical Scanning Station to help provide a level playing field for the garage. We continually update the software to stay ahead of any possible challenges,” the sanctioning body told Kickin’ The Tires back in July when the news surfaced.
NASCAR reacts to teams using black body pieces
NASCAR issued a memo to crack down on this ahead of Watkins Glen International.
NASCAR will often react to teams that find loopholes. It’s their job to make the playing field as level as possible. They are now taking steps to avoid any possible advantages.
NASCAR sent a memo to teams during the weekend at Watkins Glen International. It stated that any paint scheme that appears to essentially feature random areas of dark bodywork in crucial areas will be denied.
Crucial areas: Rear fender corner, wheel wells, a-posts and more.
Even if the paint scheme is approved, NASCAR still has a backup plan. They have the option to apply a spray to the race car which is designed to enhance the definition of the bodywork.
In recent weeks, teams have submitted paint schemes with light colored pieces in these crucial areas. Then, when they show up to the track, those piece are instead covered with black pieces. These are colors that were not submitted with the initial paint scheme.
NASCAR has stated they now will remove these pieces from the cars at the track. All paint schemes much look exactly the same way that they were submitted before arriving to the track.