Just days before the Chase for the Sprint Cup began at Chicagoland, the NASCAR Rule Committee announced changes to how penalties would be assessed for failing the LIS after a race. Every vehicle that begins a NASCAR race at any level must undergo a rigorous inspection process prior to the start of the race. Those cars which are still running at the end of the race must undergo another rigorous set of inspections in order to certify their finish in the race as official. And a driver whose vehicle fails an inspection twice is subject to penalties, the severity of which are determined by how severe NASCAR feels the violation is. After the Chicagoland Chase race, which he won, Truex’s number 78 Furniture Row Toyota Camry failed the LIS twice – and basically nothing happened to him.
What Is the LIS?
LIS stands for the Laser Inspection Station. During this inspection, the car is compared to a digitized template that the teams submit to NASCAR’s Tech Division. Before the season begins, NASCAR also installs RFID chips at various points around the car’s chassis at their R&D Center in Concord, N.C. The inspection station can then orient the car properly and take measurements to make sure nothing has changed (within tolerances) since the chassis was certified before the season. As the name implies, lasers are used in the inspection to take measurements that are accurate to within 1/1000th of an inch.
How Did NASCAR Change the Rules Regarding LIS Failure?
During the “regular season,” a failure at the LIS would result in driver and owner points being taken away, as well as a fines and a possible suspension for the crew chief. The new rules keep those penalties in place and also make a failure at the LIS a P4 penalty – attempting to circumvent measurement devices. More seriously for the Chase contenders, the first failure at the LIS would result in the driver having their win declared an “encumbered victory,” which would lose them 35 championship driver points instead of 25 and result in that driver losing the benefit of the “Win and you’re in.” In other words, failure at the LIS after a win would not guarantee that said driver will advance to the next round in the Chase. It would also mean that in the event of a tie between the “encumbered driver” and another driver who didn’t fail the LIS, the driver who failed wouldn’t be able to use their win as the tiebreaker.
Truex Fails LIS At Chicagoland and Suffers No Dire Consequences in the Chase
After the first race of the Chase, NASCAR announced that Martin Truex Jr’s Toyota Camry failed the LIS – twice. The right rear toe measurement was within tolerances, but the left rear was out by 10/1000th (.0010) of an inch. This should have automatically resulted in him being awarded a P4 penalty, losing 35 driver and owner championship points, crew Cole Pearn being fined and suspended, and Truex not receiving the benefit on an automatic advancement from the Round of 16 into the Round of 12. However, none of that happened. His victory at Chicagoland wasn’t declared an encumbered victory, no points were taken, no fines were awarded. Nothing.
Rumors Abound NASCAR is playing favorites With Toyota Drivers
You may remember that Kyle Busch missed the first 11 races of the season last year and went on to win the Cup Championship. You may also remember that NASCAR changed the rules to state that only those drivers who competed in EVERY race would be eligible for the Chase. As you may recall, I’m a member of a number of NASCAR fan sites and forums. The talk last year was that Kyle shouldn’t be allowed to compete for the Chase or the Championship because he missed so many races. When NASCAR reversed itself on its earlier ruling about who could compete for the Championship, there were many people out there who claimed that Toyota had bought NASCAR. These rumors were only strengthened when the Toyota Pavilion was unveiled at Daytona International Speedway. To make matters worse, NASCAR also said that they would be more stringent on drivers and teams whose car failed LIS twice, and Truex’s car failed at Richmond the week before.
When Jimmie Johnson was on his record-setting five-in-a-row-Championship tear, the forums and chat groups were full of people saying that he and crew chief Chad Knaus were cheaters; that they only got away with they got away with because Hendrick Motorsports is the richest and biggest team in NASCAR, and Mr. Hendrick has NASCAR and the France family in his pocket. We’re not hearing that so much anymore. What we’re hearing is that NASCAR is desperate to keep Toyota in the sport and will do anything, up to and including bending and breaking their own rules, to ensure that Toyota drivers do well and are represented in the Chase. This writer still isn’t sure about any of it. What about you? Do you think NASCAR is cheating to ensure that there will be at least one Toyota driver in the Final Four at the end of the year? We’d love to hear your opinion below.