Gibbs crew chiefs learn the hard way

Published 6:20 pm Friday, August 22, 2008

Lesson No. 1 while going through a NASCAR inspection and test: Don’t mess with the car in any shape, form, or fashion. If you don’t believe me, ask Dave Rogers or Jason Ratcliff.

Those two guys are crew chiefs for Joe Gibbs’ Nos. 20 and 18 Nationwide Series teams, respectively, and both of these guys have no idea when they will be allowed to return to work after being handed indefinite suspensions by NASCAR for trying to tamper with a dynamometer test after the Michigan race last Saturday.

Much has been said about the supposed horsepower advantage the Nationwide Toyota teams have this season. NASCAR has been trying to level the playing field and bring Toyota down in horsepower to what the other teams are producing. Not wanting to give up that advantage, Rogers and Ratcliff decided that placing magnets, acting as shims, under the accelerator petals of their cars would keep the motor from performing at full power, thus registering less rear wheel horsepower.

How do you think that worked out for Messrs. Rogers and Ratcliff? Not too good. They were busted, and now those two guys, along with five other Joe Gibbs Racing employees, are paying the price with indefinite vacations. Additionally, each team was docked 150 points and hit in the wallet for $50,000.

The ironic part to this whole story is that there was no need to try to manipulate the dyno results. Joe Gibbs’ teams are far and away the dominant teams in the Nationwide series this year. Between the 18 and the 20, they have won 14 of the 25 races thus far. Those victories have been spread out between Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. So, what is the common denominator? The cars. And I don’t think an extra 10 horsepower would equate to such domination. I bet Rogers and Ratcliff will never make the mistake of messing with a NASCAR test again.

By the time the race starts in Bristol on Saturday night, Casey Mears will be formally announced as the new driver of the No. 07 Jack Daniels car for Richard Childress Racing for the 2009 season. No, Clint Bowyer is not leaving but instead moving over to the new No. 33 General Mills-sponsored car for RCR. This is a move that is sponsor related. General Mills, maker of breakfast cereals, was not hip on the former Kellogg’s pitchman, Mears, driving their sponsored car. So, Childress made the most of the situation and moved Bowyer to be able to hire Mears.

I’m afraid this will be Mears’ last shot with a strong, proven team. After not getting the job done with Hendrick, Mears will not get better equipment than he will get with RCR. If he can’t consistently compete at a high level with Childress equipment, and after not winning at Hendrick, he might relegate himself to the mid-level teams for the remainder of his career. Here’s hoping he gets some wins.

The night race at Bristol is Saturday night. What more do you need to say? This is as an enjoyable race as you will get all season. My pick to win Saturday night at Thunder Valley is Jimmie Johnson.