Penske Racing crew chiefs Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon and Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Jason Ratcliff in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series recently served suspensions from NASCAR competition for rules infractions discovered by NASCAR officials earlier this season. But are crew chief suspensions as detrimental to a team as they used to be? I’d have to say, “no,” considering today’s technology.
Before cell phones, texting, e-mailing, online chatting, etc., when a crew chief was barred from track property on a race weekend, a team really was cut off, pretty much, from communicating with a suspended crew chief during the race. But that’s not the case anymore. Crew chiefs can keep up with what’s going on at the track from the race shop, home, or even somewhere in the vicinity of the race track with any one of the above-mentioned methods. And I’m almost certain they do.
Sure they’re not on the pit box, there at the track, to make calls in person, but I’m pretty sure they’re in contact with the team in some form or fashion, ultimately, making some of the same calls they’d make if they were there at the track.
Even so, NASCAR has said that it’s not considering changing its guidelines for crew chief suspensions. I’m not saying that these suspensions don’t affect the team at least somewhat. I’m sure they do. Having a crew chief who is following the action and is available by phone, text, etc., is better than nothing but it’s still not like having him there at the track.
While this sort of penalty does still sting quite a bit, I’m betting it doesn’t hurt quite as much as it used to. Whatever the effect, Wolfe and Gordon will be back to on the job, in person, this weekend at Dover (De.) International Speedway. Ratcliff has already returned to his post.
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