Looking For Trouble

FORT WORTH, Tex. - NASCAR took an unprecedented move on Friday when it impounded Tony Stewart's Home Depot Chevrolet when the car failed to make it through the inspection process. President Mike Helton explained what the next steps would be in the situation.

Helton's comments to the media:

“When the 20 car came through inspection it was not in a condition to pass inspection. We felt like what we wanted to do was impound the car instead of let [the team] cut it up and try to fix it, even if they might have been able to.

“The reason behind it, the uniqueness behind our action is that there’s been a great deal of time spent by NASCAR and the race teams to adapt to the common body location and the new templates. All of that effort by [NASCAR Winston Cup Director] John Darby and his folks have been – along with the cooperation of the teams – has been [designed] to eliminate the exoticness of the cars that they were traveling toward. This is the first occasion we’ve had when a car presented for inspection was pretty much out of that box that has been built for the current cars.

“The effort by John Darby and his guys, by the body shops, by the race teams and by the car owners, we feel like has been a success. We feel like it’s a success on the race track, certainly inside the garage area [judging from] the input we’re getting from the car owners, back at the shop as well as [looking at] the economics of the sport. We have a high level of interest to keep it in that direction.

“Today we ran into a situation where we were presented a car that did not fit. We have taken it, in order to secure it, and to protect it in its current condition to further investigate it and primarily because we now have an ‘R&D’ (Research and Development) Center that we’ve invested in. The resources at that center give us a greater opportunity to understand things [like this].

“We have the 20 car sitting next to our [NASCAR] hauler. We’ll take it back to our R&D Center and as the process unfolds we’ll certainly be able to use the information, [utilizing] the talent we have back at the center, to find out more about this particular situation.”

Q: Where is the car’s problem area?

HELTON: “It’s the area around the back of the car from the rear window to the rear deck. All I can really say is didn’t fit the templates … and it didn’t fit very well at all.”

Q: Could the team have fixed it?

HELTON: “There’s debate about whether or not that was possible. We chose not to give them the option because we want to understand it more. Again, the effort has been to not have this kind of situation show up. But I’ll tell you up front that Joe Gibbs Racing has been a great proponent of everything we’ve done in this area and why this car is here I don’t know right now. We simply took that option [of fixing it] away from them. But there’s been a great debate about whether it could’ve been fixed or not.”

Q: Will there be further repercussions on the No. 20 team?

HELTON: “Taking this car out of the system is quite a reaction, I think. But we feel that the car they presented to race here, now not being an option to them, is significant.”

Q: Is there any indication that their back-up car might have issues?

HELTON: “I haven’t heard of any.’

Q: Are there any issues with the 18 car?

HELTON: “I haven’t heard of any.”

Q: What type of advantage was this car going to have?

HELTON: “We don’t know but that’s one of the things we want to find out back at the R&D Center … if that was the motive, how does it stack up to cars we’re racing today? Because now we have those [technical] resources at our fingertips [to help us].”

Q: Could this have happened by accident?

HELTON: “I don’t know. I’m not going to speculate on how the car ended up here. I just know it was here when we opened up the inspection doors.”

Q: Is this the end of the issue for now?

HELTON: “We’ve got the car in our possession. They’ve gone into the qualifying process with their back-up car. As the situation unfolds we may or may not react [further].”

Q: Will the car be NASCAR’s forever?

HELTON: “We have not made that decision yet so I don’t know. Right now the decision is just to take it out of the system. That’s where we are right now.”

Q: Is this a signal to the garage about how seriously NASCAR views this violation?

HELTON: “I would like to think it is. The parts and pieces that we confiscate and get tagged and are left out on the back of our truck for people to look at; I’d say this fits that scenario. [The car] was just too big to put on our counter.”

Q: Is the body on the impounded car more in line with the 2002 body; is that the problem?

HELTON: “I don’t know, I’m not going to speculate. I’ll say this: Joe Gibbs Racing changed from Pontiacs to Monte Carlos in the off-season and this is not a Pontiac.”

Q: Is there anyway the No. 20 team can get this impounded car back to race this week?

HELTON: “Not this car. Not the one we’ve impounded. This one’s ours right now.”

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