NASCAR recently announced a rule change that places parameters on rear steering and makes it more difficult for teams to set up their cars in a way that makes rear steering easier and gives them an advantage on the track.
The technical bulletin, issued last Thursday during the Sprint Cup Series’ visit to Richmond International Raceway, goes into effect next week at Chicagoland Speedway just in time for the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, according to CBSSports.com. The new rule implemented by NASCAR will limit the amount of movement of the truck arm front mounting bushings to a quarter of an inch. The bushings are located in the rear suspension and are made of rubber or other materials. Teams find ways of making the bushings softer in order to allow for the truck arms to move more freely and help steer the car more easily through turns.
There have been talks that the change was directed at Hendrick Motorsports after complaints were made by other teams that the Hendrick cars had an aerodynamic advantage due to manipulations of the rear housing. Sprint Cup series director John Darby told ESPN.com that the bulletin was not aimed at any particular team and driver Jeff Gordon says that he doesn’t believe the changes made to the rear housing was something that was unheard of.
“When we presented it to NASCAR for approval, they didn’t act like it was something they had never seen before,” said Hendrick driver and four-time champion Jeff Gordon. “I don’t even think we were the first ones to do it.”
While it’s unconfirmed if they were the first, they certainly weren’t the last. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch confirmed that other teams began making similar changes to those made by the Hendrick teams.
“We all started working on it once we saw what they were doing,” Busch said. “It’s follow the leader. You really don’t have many secrets here in the garage area very long. We started going to work on those kind of things, too, and trying to manipulate some of the same things they were doing.”
“It’s an advantage, but it’s a legal advantage,” Busch added. “There is nothing illegal with what they were doing.”
According to Kerry Tharp, senior director of competition communications for NASCAR, teams may have been pushing the limits on their rear housing setups, but no rules were broken. The rule change was made as “a reminder to the NASCAR Sprint Cup race teams what the boundaries were when it came to setting up their cars’ rear suspension,” Tharp told TicketNews via email. “Teams had really gotten to the limit and were continuing to push the limit with their setups. NASCAR sent out this technical bulletin to inform the teams that they needed to push the limit no more.”
Following the announcement, some fans have begun to question how the rule change might affect their drivers’ performance, but Tharp assures that the rule change should have no negative impact. “Our fans are among the most passionate in all of sports and I’m sure there will be some discussion and debate among our fans on how this might impact their favorite driver, etc. However, we have one of the most balanced Chase for the Sprint Cup fields set for these next 10 races and we believe the level of excitement will be extremely high,” Tharp told TicketNews.
All four of Hendrick’s drivers will compete for the championship — five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were previously locked into the Chase while Kasey Kahne and Gordon secured the two wild-card spots last week at Richmond.