The winning NASCAR Modified from Ryan Newman’s triumph at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will begin its tear-down on Monday at the sanctioning body’s R&D Center in Concord, NC. Officials from NASCAR say it could be as late as Tuesday before we know the ultimate fate of the team after a cloud of controversy swirled around the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event during post-race technical inspection of the car.
Ryan Newman won his third straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday and fourth consecutive if you take into consideration his triumph at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) in August. The car is owned by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief for Jamie McMurray,
Kevin Manion, and his car chief, Gary Putnam, both of whom were crewmembers on the Modified Tour in the 1990’s.
During the race this weekend, Newman won the pole position by almost three tenths of a second and led early. He dropped back to third at one point in the race, but easily passed both Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy in the closing laps to score the win.
“He (Newman) was playing with us,” Szegedy said after the race.
Shortly after victory lane cleared a cloud of controversy brewed. Stories began to leak out that Newman’s
engine was being confiscated. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director, John Darby and the Director of NASCAR’s Touring Series, Richard Buck were called over to the tech area to analyze the situation as NASCAR tested the engine. Finally NASCAR confirmed that it had decided to take the entire car for further evaluation. Jason Christley, Manager of Communications for NASCAR's Touring & Weekly Series, would tell us later that Darby was called over because of his experience with restrictor plate engines in NASCAR.
NASCAR requires the cars that race on the Whelen Modified Tour at NHMS to utilize a restrictor plate, much like the Cup Series does at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, due to the high speeds the cars carry at the largest track the series competes on.
“It was sucking too much air,” one Modified driver would tell us later that evening.
On Sunday, after NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series event in Loudon, NH, we had the opportunity to speak with John Darby. He told us the same procedure that they use to check restrictor plate engines in the Sprint Cup Series is what was used to examine the engine in Newman’s car at NHMS.
“We pulled the vacuum out of it (Saturday) and did a pressure test on it and there was a leak,” said Darby. “We will take it back and test it again and pull it apart to see where the leak was coming from.”
Earlier in the day, we approached co-car owner Gary Putnam and he didn’t have much to say.
“NASCAR took the car; we’ll find out Tuesday (what the verdict is),” said Putnam.
Tuesday is usually the day NASCAR announces any penalties from the previous weekend’s races, but with no WMT race until July 30th (Riverhead Raceway), NASCAR could take more time to make an announcement.
Many in the Modified community that we spoke to want NASCAR to strip the team of its victory, however, it is usually common practice for NASCAR to simply penalize the team rather than declaring a new winner after it issues a penalty to the car that won the race.
This is a precedent that has been followed to a tee in all but one instance. Three years ago, Burt Myers won the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Martinsville Speedway. In post-race tech, a potential issue was found, and after further investigation it was deemed that Myers’ Modified had ignition wires that did not conform to the NASCAR rulebook. The win at the prestigious racetrack was stripped and Myers was further penalized by a one-event suspension for Myers, as was his car owner Philip Smith and crew chief Scott Widener (who was also fined $1,000). All three were also put on probation for the remainder of the 2008 season.
All that has been proven about the performance of the car thus far is that Ryan Newman is a talented driver in it and the #7NY is a powerful, hard-to-beat Modified. This week's NASCAR inspection on it will now determine if there is another specific reason that the car is so tough to beat.