Long: Tony Stewart suggests way to change NASCAR inspections

Dustin Long
NBC Sports

Shortly after his Stewart-Haas Racing organization completed its sweep of the Xfinity and Cup races at Texas last weekend, assuring Cole Custer and Kevin Harvick a spot in their respective championships, Tony Stewart was asked about NASCAR mistakenly sending Jimmie Johnson to the rear for the start because officials in race control were led to believe Johnson’s car failed inspection three times before the event.

Stewart unleashed a blunt missive.

“I still don’t understand why we have to worry about failing three times,” he said. “Bring your car, roll it through tech, you either pass or you don’t. I don’t know why we screw around, jack around with one, two, three times. It’s ridiculous to me.

“Only series in the world where you get to go through tech three times and fail twice, they still let you go through a third time. We got to figure it out. Got to make it simpler than this. Shouldn’t be this difficult.

“Half the time you don’t know what the penalty is supposed to be. I’m a car owner and I don’t know what the penalty is supposed to be. As a fan, I don’t know how the fans can keep up with it either. If you start rolling cars through one time, they don’t pass, they go to the back, I bet you there would be a lot less cars fail tech the next week. Who knows.

“I’m with you, I think it needs to be a less complicated way of doing it, for sure.”

It’s not a new thought. NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan wrote in May that NASCAR needs to “find a way to shrink the rulebook and open up the manufacturer competition again.”

That wasn’t the only issue that some questioned this weekend.

Clint Bowyer was penalized for having a crew member over the wall too soon when he came in to have has gas tank topped with fuel. Only the gas man went over the wall, but the penalty was not on him. It was on a pit crew member who sat on the wall with his feet touching pit road. The crew member never moved from that location during the few seconds Bowyer’s car was in the pit box.

Still, NASCAR called the penalty.

In a pit road handout NASCAR makes available to all teams it states for crew member(s) over the wall too soon: “A crew member’s foot must not touch the pit road surface before the vehicle is one pit box away from its assigned pit box or the equivalent marked distance.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, was asked after the race about the penalty to Bowyer’s team.

“That’s the rule,” O’Donnell said. “I know people don’t necessarily like all the rules. That’s the rule. If we don’t make that call, I think you guys would be asking why we didn’t.”

So, if the crew member’s feet had been dangling over – but not touching the pit road surface – there would have been no penalty.

It was no surprise that Kevin Harvick won Sunday at Texas. Talk in the garage before the race was how fast his car was. This time he and his team delivered.

Harvick has had the fastest green-flag speed in all three races on 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs but had yet to win in the playoffs. The speed is a good sign for Harvick with the championship finale in Miami on a 1.5-mile track.

Harvick’s dominance is greater than 2014 when he ranked in the top three in green-flag speed in the 1.5-mile playoff races leading up to the finale in Miami. Harvick won the championship that year.

The two winningest drivers in the Xfinity Series this season might not race for a championship.

Christopher Bell (six wins this season) and Justin Allgaier (five) are both outside a transfer spot heading into Saturday’s Xfinity race at Phoenix (3:30 p.m. on NBC).

“That’s tough,” Allgaier said of he and Bell possibly not racing for a title despite their success all year. “That’s what this format is all about.”

Allgaier is 12 points out of the last transfer spot. Bell is 34 points back.

“I think you’re going to have to have somebody have a problem, whether that is a mistake or get caught up in something and not beat yourself,” Allgaier said of what it will take for him to advance. “On the flip side of that, if anybody could go there and win, I think Christopher is the guy that could easily go there and win. He was strong there in the spring. He finished fourth. We finished second. My hope is we battle it out for the win and we come out on top.”

Bell is in this spot after being involved in Lap 1 incidents the first two races of the round. His Texas race ended after contact with Austin Cindric sent Bell into the wall.

“The good thing we have going for us is that we’re competitive and we can fight for the win every single week,” Bell said. “I love Phoenix and have run good there in the past. I think we’ll have a really good shot at it. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. I’ve got another shot next year.”

Bell’s comment above is in reference that he’ll be back in Xfinity next season at Joe Gibbs Racing even though he said in August that “I don’t feel like I need another year of Xfinity.”

While no surprise, Cole Custer made it known this past weekend that he’ll be back next season in the Xfinity Series for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Also, Gray Gaulding announced this past weekend that he’ll drive in the Xfinity Series for SS Green Light Racing next year.

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