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Technology ties NASCAR’s hands when it comes to crew chief suspensions

It may seem like I’m beating that proverbial dead horse, here, as today’s blog post is going to be my second-straight that at least touches on the contact between race teams and their suspended crew chiefs, most recently the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota team of driver Martin Truex Jr. with its crew chief, Cole Pearn.

In case you’re new to the situation, here’s the skinny: Pearn was suspended for one race after the team’s second roof-flap issue of the young season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. An appeal that was eventually withdrawn delayed that suspension from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway race to Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. Early in the PIR race weekend, Truex publicly acknowledged that his team was going to remain in contact with Pearn throughout the weekend.

That contact was, by no means, against NASCAR rules, and FRR’s contact with its suspended crew chief throughout the weekend is actually commonplace for Sprint Cup teams when their crew chiefs are serving a suspension. It’s an example of teams playing the game to the best of their abilities within the rules by taking advantage of today’s technology.

The reason I’m still harping on this subject stems from a discussion with NASCAR Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday monring.

“A suspension should be that,” O’Donnell said. “It shouldn’t allow someone just to crew chief a car from a different location.”

In my mind, that location is on the couch in front of the TV at home. Whether or not that’s accurate doesn’t really matter. Just thought I’d mention it.

Anyway, O’Donnell acknowledged that, given today’s technology, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to police the communication between team and suspended crew chief.

Earlier this morning, I saw a fan’s take on the social media that implied said fan thought there was an easy solution. This fan’s easy solution was having the crew chief at the track but locking him up in the NASCAR trailer. Okay, sure, that’s easy for a three to three-and-a-half-hour race and an hour-long practice session here and there. Heck, that probably wouldn’t be such a big deal for all hours the garage is open.

Here are the hitches in that giddy-up, though:

What about after hours? What’s to keep crew chiefs from hashing out plans and set-ups somewhere nearby after the garage closes and before it opens? Are these crew chiefs supposed to be locked in a cell 24 hours a day all race weekend? If so, there better be constant supervision from NASCAR officials working in shifts so said officials would get some sleep sometime. If that’s not an option, better take away all cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.

This is starting to sound a lot like a weekend jail sentence, now, isn’t it? Could that ultimately lead to some kind of unlawful imprisonment charges for NASCAR? I’m not a law expert by any stetch of the imagination, but maybe.

So, I’m thinking that locking crew chiefs up for the duration of a race weekend is out of the question, and I’m guessing that’s not an option NASCAR is considering. Actually, judging from what O’Donnell said Monday, NASCAR may be considering a rule it won’t be able to enforce.

“It’s very difficult to police, but you could have, almost, a no-contact rule,” O’Donnell said. “That would be hard to police, but we could put that in place. It is something we’re looking at.”

What’s the point of a rule that can’t be enforced?

Suspensions may be suitable judgements for failed drug tests and maybe for rule-breaking drivers. But, given today’s technology, suspending crew chiefs may be a punishment that has outlived its usefulness. I don’t know.

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Posted by on March 15, 2016. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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