NASCAR: No roof flap penalties

It was much ado about nothing.

On Wednesday, NASCAR decided not to issue penalties to the 31 teams in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series garages that had altered spacers confiscated from the roof flap assembly package in their cars at Daytona last weekend.

Sixteen teams in the Cup garage were forced to change out the spacers before the cars were allowed to practice last Thursday. After the discrepancy was discovered in the Cup cars, NASCAR officials began scouring the Nationwide Series garage as well. Fifteen NNS teams also had spacers that did not conform.

The sanctioning body released a statement from NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton saying, “We examined this from every aspect we possibly could and determined that there would be no penalties involved. Based upon our inspection and subsequent review, it was our determination that the functionality and safety aspects of the roof flaps were not compromised and the on track competition would not be impacted.”

Basically, most teams were just looking to build a better mousetrap.

The NASCAR rulebook states that roof flaps must be assembled according to the rules that accompany the kits. However, since roof flaps were first engineered by Jack Roush following a rash of accidents in 1993, the evolution of the assembly kits has not changed dramatically despite the sports advancement of the race cars — through the Gerneration 4 model, the Car of Tomorrow or the Generation 6 car that was introduced for the 2013 season. Yet the size of the roof flaps from the COT to the Gen 6 roof flaps changed from 22 inches wide by 8 inches to 10.25 wide by 24.7 on the left side and 10.125 inches by 33.5 on the right.

“Some of the parts and pieces don’t fit the way they come in the box,” said one engineer speaking under anonymity to “Up to now, that’s been OK. There has been some leeway in that for the last few years.”

That "leeway," however, stopped last Thursday.

Certainly, altering the pieces in order for the roof flaps to lay flush is one way to look at the situation. Attempting to lighten the spacers by drilling holes in the pieces is a completely different matter. Still, the practice of lightening the spacers appears to be widespread in NASCAR. One engineer insisted that if NASCAR had waited to inspect the cars this weekend at New Hampshire where a lower center of gravity in the car is considered more advantageous, additional teams would have been added to the list.

“Moving forward we will work with the roof flap manufacturer and the race teams to evaluate and optimize the associated installation hardware, review the process in its totality and communicate in a timely manner to the garage area any revisions that we determine need to be made,” Pemberton said.

NASCAR met with representatives from Roush Industries on Tuesday at the Research and Development Center to discuss possible modifications moving forward. New roof flap kits are expected to become available by September.