In previous years, NASCAR collected cars weeks ahead of the championship race to avoid the potential champ failing post-race inspection
NASCAR has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the idea of a level playing field in the sport. Teams will push every rule in the book. NASCAR has reacted by increasing their technology to inspect the cars.
New for this year, all cars are sent through an optical scanning station. This station measures the entire body of the car. That’s opposed to the previous method of measuring select sections. Now, the entire car is scanned and the entirety of the body is checked.
But, it’s not just the surface that needs to pass the scan. It also needs to be centered within the rules. In previous season, teams have built a body that fits the rules, then they skew it off to one side. The idea there is to prevent drag in a straight line. Then, when the car goes into the corner, the edges pop out into the air and it creates downforce, only when needed.
The optical scanning station fixes that. But, even with all the technology, some thing can’t be checked at the race track. Several cars are collected after each race. They are taken back to Concord, North Carolina were they’re disassembled.
But, what are the details of that process?
NASCAR R&D Center Inspection Process
“As our fans will notice while they’re at the race track, when the race is over, we’ll capture cars on pit road,” NASCAR VP of Officiating and Technical Inspection, Elton Sawyer explained to ‘The Morning Drive’ via SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“As we go through the playoffs, we would capture the 16 playoff cars. We run them through a post-race inspection at the race track. We do heights, weights and the optical scanning station.”
For those cars, they’ll also plug a computer into the engine. That’s to download the data and make sure it’s up to spec with the regulations.
In the first three races, all 16 playoff cars line up on pit road for that inspection. In the next round, it’s 12 and 8 in the current round.
“From that group of cars, we will take the winner, 2nd and 3rd. We’ll load them in a NASCAR hauler. We’ll seal them there. That truck will drive back to the R&D Center. They’ll be unloaded and put in the R&D facility.”
“Then, we’ll come in on Monday morning. Starting at 8am, we’ll do the winner. At 10am, we’ll do 2nd. At 1pm, we’ll do the random vehicle.”
“That’s more of a thorough inspection. The engines come out. The suspension comes off, it’s all measured. Sometimes, we’ll even x-ray some of those parts to make sure they’re all in compliance with the rulebook.”
“That’s a process that we do every week. It’s all done to keep the integrity of the garage. And make sure all the competitors are playing on a level playing field. To make sure they’re not getting beat by someone that’s playing shenanigans with the rulebook.”
What if the NASCAR champion fails inspection?
Typically, NASCAR inspects the cars on Monday. Any penalties are then announced the following day, Tuesday.
But, for the championship race, that would be a horrible situation. The fans would see a champion crowned on Sunday. Then, Tuesday he would be handed a penalty.
How does NASCAR work to avoid that situation?
“In years past, the teams that are in the Round of 8, they would bring their cars — Those Homestead cars — They would bring them to the R&D Center.”
The 8 championship drivers would be captured several weeks ahead of the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Yet, only 4 of those cars would be competing for a championship. They collect 8 because at that point, it’s unsure which 4 cars would be the one’s to advance.
“We would measure the chassis, the bodies and look at some other components.”
“This year, because of the some of the technology we have with the optical scanning station, our fans can be assured that every weekend we have that process from the initial inspection.”
“In the past, we didn’t necessarily have the ability to measure the bodies. Not to get off in the weeds here and confuse them — To make sure the body was located on the chassis the way it’s suppose to be.”
“You know, you can mount the body correctly. But, it could be sitting from left front to right rear, if you will. With our optical scanning station, we have the ability to see that, every week.”
“This year, we’ve forgone the fact that you have to bring your car. Because we’re doing that at the race track. That’s an added efficiency to the teams. Where they don’t have to schedule and bring cars there.”
“Going to Texas and Phoenix. They would have had to be planning on getting cars to us at the R&D Center.”
The drive out to Phoenix is tricky. Teams will usually bring the Phoenix cars with them to Texas. That’s to save some miles.
“That technology has really enabled us to do some things that help us from the officiating side. But, also help the teams on the logistics on their side.