Why NASCAR lowered the boom on No. 31 team for tire tampering

Larry McReynolds says NASCAR's message to Sprint Cup teams is pretty simple: Don't mess with your Goodyear tires.

Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images

I’m sure by now that most race fans have heard that NASCAR lowered the boom on the No. 31 car of driver Ryan Newman late Tuesday afternoon after the results of a tire audit.

Crew chief Luke Lambert has been fined $125,000 and suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship races, plus he’s been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. James Bender, team tire technician, and Philip Surgen, team engineer, also have been suspended for the next six Sprint Cup races and placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. In addition, driver Newman and car owner Richard Childress each have been penalized with the loss of 75 championship driver and championship car owner points.

Let’s face it: The best inspectors in our sport are those competitors in the garage area. It was that way even clear back when I was just entering the sport as a crew member. When you start hearing noise about something going on in the garage area and as that noise gets louder with more people making a fuss about it, well, then there’s probably something there.

I realize it’s probably confusing to race fans as to why a competitor would put a hole in a tire. The answer is complicated while at the same time simple. There is an optimum air pressure that those tires will perform their best and durability will be at its best. There is a graph that Goodyear puts out every week that has a performance line and a durability line on it. There’s a point in that graph where those two lines cross. That’s the optimum air pressure point when the tire will perform at its best.

The rub is there is no way to maintain that optimum air pressure. That’s why you see teams start their tires very low because the tires will gain pressure over the course of a run. Then as the air pressure continues to grow, you get outside that optimum window of good performance. So anything you can do to reduce that pressure gradually will obviously enhance the window of optimum performance.

I think fans need to understand that when I say a team or teams are putting holes in their tires for a gradual reduction of air, I’m talking about holes that are miniscule. These are holes you couldn’t even see. Seriously, I’m talking about a 10,000th of an inch size hole.

So NASCAR lowered the boom on the No. 31 car for this very issue. Not only has the No. 31 team received the message but I am sure the entire garage area received a clear signal once again from NASCAR that the Big Three — engines, fuel and tires — are not to be tampered with. 

VIDEO: A closer look at the massive penalties handed down to the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team by NASCAR