Helton: Suspensions Make a 'Statement'

Mike Helton

NASCAR President Mike Helton was at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday for a Sherwin-Williams announcement. (Photo: Getty Images)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - NASCAR President Mike Helton says suspending crew chiefs and crew members makes a "statement."

But are teams dictating what that statement truly means?

Three Sprint Cup Series teams - including that of race winner Matt Kenseth - competed last weekend at Darlington Raceway without their crew chiefs.  But that didn’t cut lines of communication.

The suspended crew chiefs kept in touch from Face Time to instant messaging and more.  It’s nothing new.  Teams have done this for some time, but the level to which they can communicate has increased while NASCAR’s response has lagged.

"There are all kinds of technology in this garage, maybe not always on the racecars," said defending series champion Brad Keselowski, who raced without crew chief Paul Wolfe and two other crew members at Darlington.

As technology evolves, is it time for NASCAR to change what a crew member can and can’t do while suspended?

"We’re not suspending crew members to try to hurt the performance of the team," Helton said Wednesday.  "That’s part of the penalty process that goes along with making a statement that 'This isn’t what we want to see happen, so don’t do it again.'  I think the publicity of an individual being suspended comes with a significant amount of impact."

It didn’t seem to impact Kenseth and his team that crew chief Jason Ratcliff was suspended for last weekend’s race.  Ratcliff was to have missed six points races after a connecting rod in Kenseth’s race-winning engine at Kansas Speedway was found to be underweight.  But that penalty was reduced to one points race upon appeal.

Wally Brown sat in for Ratcliff at Darlington and told "The Morning Drive"’ on SiriusXM Radio that he was "instant messaging (with Ratcliff) the whole time, bouncing changes back and forth.  That helped a lot."

Ratcliff told the SiriusXM Radio Post-Race Show: "I at least felt like I knew what was going on.  We were able to communicate back and forth (Saturday), so everything went really good there.  We were dialed in right there listening to Wally call the shots, along with my engineers, on the pit box.  We just took technology, took what was available to us and put it to good use."

Keselowski finished 32nd at Darlington after he was involved in an accident.  Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano - whose crew chief, car chief and engineer also were suspended - finished 22nd.

Asked if NASCAR was comfortable with the increased use of technology by teams to communicate with suspended crew members, Helton said: "We get the fact that in today’s world of technology, social media and all the opportunities, their input could still be utilized."

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup

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