So NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keslowski feels that technical inspectors have been picking on his team
So he feels that his Penske Racing operation has been singled out for special scrutiny in races this season, and angrily said so...
The reason for the vigilance was revealed Wednesday.
The sanctioning body alleged that the cars of Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano were equipped with banned rear-end parts for the NRA 500 last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. The parts, according to well-placed sources, allowed the back ends of the cars to swing slightly to the right, improving traction.
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The penalties imposed by NASCAR are harsh and are being appealed.
Penske Racing’s two crew chiefs were fined $100,000 each and the drivers docked 25 points toward making the post-season playoff, or “Chase.”
The crew chiefs are suspended for six races, along with other key team members.
It’s among the most sweeping punishments in NASCAR history, one that makes oldtimers in stock car racing shudder.
Some of them, a few now gone, complained of being unfairly targeted repeatedly by inspectors, or “picked on,” too.
Among the earliest and most famous of these was the late Smokey Yunick, a mechanical genius and master innovater.
The colorful Yunick made a sport of trying to outwit NASCAR and circumvent the rules. There is no telling how many times he got away with it.
One time he didn’t was at Daytona International Speedway in the 1960s. NASCAR was suspicious of the gas tank in Yunick’s car and ordered him to remove it for inspection.
Yunick refused, so officials had the tank taken out. In an incident that will live forever in NASCAR lore, a furious Yunick got in the car and drove it, without a gas tank, to his Daytona Beach shop a few miles away.
“Smokey told me some years later that there was so much fuel hidden in that car that he could have driven it to Jacksonville,” a laughing driving star Buddy Baker told me a few years back. Jacksonville is 90 miles from Daytona Beach.
Another competitor that I especially recall getting strong NASCAR attention is Hoss Ellington of Wilmington. Now retired, Ellington was first a driver in the 1970s and then a winning team owner until the late 1980s.
Just as much a character as Yunick, Ellington likewise delighted in skirting the rules.
He most famously attempted it for the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October of 1973.
Ellington equipped his car with an ingenious, well-designed and hidden carburetor plate that driver Charlie Glotzbach could control from the cockpit via a small cable.
NASCAR discovered the device after Glotzbach sped to the pole position. It was confiscated and Chargin’ Charlie was penalized back to the 36th starting position.
The mystery plate was the talk of the garage area and pit road all through Saturday and the morning of the Sunday race, especially since NASCAR refused to show it to anyone or reveal details about it.
Shortly before the race began Cup Series director Bill Gazaway called me to a building adjacent to the garage area.
“Tom, I have been told to show you that cheater of a plate and tell you how it works,” Gazaway said with just the two of us in the room.
He revealed that a hidden panel was inserted on the bottom side of the carburetor and connected by the cable to a lever located under the dash. By manipulating the lever Glotzbach could slide the plate back and forth. Opened completely, the panel allowed more fuel and air to pour through, generating greater horsepower. The effect was like taping one sprinter’s nostrils shut while allowing a rival to run unencumbered.
As Gazaway finished his revelation, the late NASCAR president Bill France, Jr., walked into the room.
He called the plate “one of the most ingenious inventions ever seen on a race car.”
How NASCAR found the well-crafted plate remains a mystery even after all these years. So does who made the decision to show it to me and give me the story about the device that famously has come to be known as “Glotzbach’s Gizmo.”
For all the years afterward Hoss Ellington’s cars were suspect every time they were put through pre-race inspection. Those cars, incidentally, were closely followed by a teenage fan who lived near Ellington’s shop in Wilmington. His name? Michael Jordan.
Unlike Keselowski, Ellington never loudly complained about the extra attention. Not even when NASCAR nailed him again.
It happened in 1986 at Daytona in July prior to the Firecracker 400.
Inspectors found a small refrigeration unit on Ellington’s car, driven by Sterling Marlin.
Cup Series director Dick Beaty said the illegal gadget was hidden under the right front fender and was designed to cool the fuel as it passed from the fuel pump into the carburetor. “The cooler the fuel, the greater the horsepower,” said Beaty.
How did Ellington come up with such another creative device? Well, back in Wilmington he also operated a heating an air-conditioning company.
The unit was confiscated and Hoss was fined $5,000.
“You try to do everything you can,” Ellington said with a shrug.
Racing without an illegal part—as far as we know—Marlin still was very competitive in the 400, finishing second to winner Tim Richmond.
“Hoss is a fun guy to have around,” said the late, much-admired Beaty. “It’s not being unfair that we have to be so extra watchful of him. Check the records and you’ll see why.
“He ain’t no virgin.”
Now, allegedly, neither is the team of Brad Keselowski.