I provided an interpretation of the penalty upholding statement released last Wednesday. The whole process raised more questions than it answered. The RCR appeal is dead. I put a couple last comments at the end of the post, but those are more for archival purposes than anything else. I also have a significant (well, for me at least) personal development at the very end.
Here’s the issue now. John Middlebrook, NASCAR’s chief appellate officer, will hear RCR’s (final) appeal tomorrow. He has a major advantage in that he can pretty much run the appeal however he wants. If I were in Mr. Middlebrook’s shoes, here’s what I’d do.
There are some major discrepancies that have not been resolved. The appeals panel said that Dr. Manning contradicted RCR – Manning apparently only investigated the left-hand side of the car, and he said in numerous interviews that he told the panel he didn’t know if the right side could have been made higher because he didn’t measure it. The panel claims he said the right-hand side couldn’t have been made higher by the tow truck. This is a really serious discrepancy between what the testifying person says they said and what the panel heard.
Let’s get all the people involved in the same room and resolve the discrepancies. What exactly was RCR told the violation was? Were they notified in writing or orally? Did both sides have the same understanding of how the process would work? A new wrinkle appeared today as reported by Dave Moody. RCR and Manning claimed that they were not allowed to see the car. Saturday, NASCAR says that Manning never asked to look at the car, and that everyone at RCR was aware that there is an “open door policy”. Did RCR ask to look at the car? Did NASCAR offer to provide all the data they had?
Why didn’t Manning measure both rear sides? Did RCR tell him that they were only being accused of being too high on the left? RCR told everyone that the car was 0.060″ too high prior to the hearing. Where did they get that number? Manning learned that the number was 0.039″ only just before the hearing.
Mr. Middlebrook, the best thing you could do is to initiate reform of the process to make it more transparent. Does the R&D Center have the responsibility to show the violation? Does RCR have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, or do they just have to place reasonable doubt on NASCAR’s case? Is there really any reason why fans shouldn’t know the exact nature of the violation if the team doesn’t object (prior to appeal)?
NASCAR does itself no favors being secretive. I know, NASCAR’s corporate culture is highly focused on control, but the fact is that most people believe the only reason to keep things secret is if you have something to hide. Why wasn’t NASCAR out there Wednesday night or Thursday morning refuting the assertions that RCR wasn’t allowed to view the car?
RCR’s case is a lost cause, but there’s an opportunity to make a more important difference in the culture of NASCAR. Openness and transparency. A rule book anyone can download from the web. To do otherwise is, well, malarkey.
A couple of other clarifications:
1. The 33 car from Richmond was not illegal. NASCAR warned RCR that they were getting very close to the line, but that car was judged to be legal. Nothing that has happened affects whether the 33 should be in The Chase or not. RCR has suffered from Perry Mason syndrome — the minute someone says “I wish Fred were dead” and then, voila, when Fred dies, you know who the first suspect is going to be. NASCAR warned RCR after the Richmond inspection that the 33 car from New Hampshire would be taken for detailed inspection regardless of whether it won or finished 43rd.
2. The 33 car from New Hampshire was illegal. RCR doesn’t contest this. The body was correct, the chassis was correct, but the body was located incorrectly relative to the chassis by 0.039″ above the allowed tolerance. I don’t believe anyone was trying to cheat, because you’d have to be pretty dense to be off by this much.
3. The illegality of the New Hampshire car could not have been detected by measurements made at the track. Measuring to that degree of specificity requires a surface plate – a special installation that is either metal, granite, or poured epoxy. During a tour of Hendrick Motorsports, I was told that their surface plates, which are large enough for the entire car, have a height variation of less than 0.007″ over the entire plate. A surface plate is installed and certified for a specific location: Its accuracy depends on the surface on which it is sitting. Surface plates are not portable. The metrology system (the thing they use to make the measurements with) is very precise and also not conducive to moving. If these measurements are to be made as part of the post-race inspection, they have to be made at the NASCAR R&D Center, not at the track.
I’m working on my next invention, the portable x-ray/laser scanner, which I plan to house in a mobile system that looks like a drive-in car wash. You’d push the car in, and lasers would come from the top, sides and bottom to take a ‘fingerprint’ (carprint) that can be compared before/after. Anyone who has a few million dollars lying around to invest, please let me know.
I’ll be working on that project from a new home. I’m happy to announce that, starting November 1, I’ll be taking on a new post, as Director of the West Virginia Nano Initiative. I’ll be leading an incredibly talented group of researchers in physics, chemistry, medicine and engineering to address some of the most important problems we’re facing: improving energy efficiency and moving to domestically available energy sources; learning to diagnose and treat disease at earlier stages and more cheaply, developing new sensors that will help us learn about how the environment around us is changing and how we need to respond to those changes, and national security. I’m very excited about the new job – it’s going to be a major challenge, but it is an absolutely great group of people. Morgantown is within six hours of Bristol, Martinsville, Charlotte, Indy, Kentucky, Pocono and Richmond.
Not that that had ANYTHING to do with my taking the job…