Dale Earnhardt Jr says that the current debate over the legality of the rear-end housings on several cars including his own Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is a positive for NASCAR.
The housings are a hot topic in the Bristol paddock ahead of tonight’s IRWIN Tools Night Race following comments made by Penske Racing rival Brad Keselowski last week at Michigan.
Although later underlining the fact that he was not accusing others of cheating, Keselowski referred to “part and pieces that are moving after inspection that makes the (Hendrick) cars more competitive.” He added: “Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don’t want to be the guys that get the big penalty.”
NASCAR says it is monitoring the situation, declaring the set-ups as “questionable” but “not illegal”.
Speaking at Bristol, Earnhardt says that debates over technical development is a positive for what is regarded as one of the world’s lowest-technology forms of motorsport.
“It’s incredible seeing that that we would go to these lengths to find speed,” Earnhardt told Speedcafe.com and other media at the circuit.
“The real big innovations happen once every four years. It changes the sport, and everyone eventually gets on the wagon and finds another area to work in.
“There’s all kinds of little tiny things that happen all year long, small pieces of speed. Every week, everybody’s got an idea. That’s what is supposed to happen. You got all these guys you pay to be innovative engineers.
“It’s good for the sport. We can’t be crushed into this box where all 43 cars run the exact same lap times, and we’ll be single file around the track. The bigger teams seem to have the bigger engineering departments and more success and more ability to study stuff like this.”
Earnhardt refused to return fire on the outspoken Keselowski, but says that he did take offence to the former JR Motorsports driver’s comments.
“I do know Brad pretty well – Brad’s a really good guy,” Earnhardt said.
“He has a pretty good heart, and he’s a really great race car driver, and I wish he’d concentrate on that. I think he likes to talk a lot, but I think his true skills shine on the racetrack, not really behind the microphone.
“Me and Brad are friends, and I don’t want any drama with Brad. I don’t particularly like the things he says lately about the company I drive for, so I take offense to the claims and accusations.”
Meanwhile, Richard Childress Racing crew chief Slugger Labbe is continuing to work on Paul Menard’s #27 Chevrolet this weekend after the team appealed a suspension handed out post-Michigan.
Labbe’s suspension was handed down alongside a $100,000 fine and a loss of 25 owner and driver points after NASCAR declared that it had the team had “intentionally modifying frame rails for the purpose of deceiving NASCAR’s inspection gauges.”
Geigo Racing’s Casey Mears will start tonight’s IRWIN Tools Night Race from pole position after qualifying was rained out yesterday.