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No further penalies expected in David Reutimann case, NASCAR says

  David Reutimann has been the center of attention (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern

   FONTANA, Calif.
   Updating the David Reutimann shock issue:
   Reutimann qualified second fastest Friday for Sunday's California Pepsi 500 but will have to start at the rear of the field because his rear shocks had too much gas pressure.
   NASCAR's John Darby, Cup director, says that's the extent of the penalty -- "It's over. It's done." – and that there will be no further penalties.
   While Darby declined to say by how much those shocks were over the 75 PSI limit, rival shock men and crew chiefs in the garage said they understood the shocks were from 15 to 25 pounds over, and they dismissed the issue as probably a minor mistake, without any significant performance advantage.
   However some others were more suspicious, and pointed to four other teams they thought might have been using excessive shock pressures in previous races to in fact gain an edge. And one pointed out that if the limit is 75 pounds, and the gauge in question was off by 15 or more pounds, that's an error of more than 20 percent -- in a sport where measurements are routinely taken to the thousandths of an inch.
   By pumping up shock pressure, the rear of the car is thus higher, and that means more downforce, and better corner handling.
   Still, as one pointed out, that also raises the already-high center-of-gravity, compromising any such edge.
   Plus NASCAR itself fills all race-day shocks (not for qualifying or practice), to preclude any such tricks on race day…presumably.
    However there are still ways to boost shock pressures during the race.
   After qualifying, Darby says his men routinely check six to 10 cars for rear shock pressures.
   One issue, teams pointed out, is that their own gauges might not be in synch with NASCAR's gauges. But then teams of course have the opportunity to calibrate their gauges with NASCAR's any time during race weekend, if they have any question.
   Still, with NASCAR declining to list the specific pressures involved here, some crews are still a bit skeptical.
   Are teams getting beat by others sneaking through trick shocks? "If someone's shocks were pumped up 100 pounds over, then I'd be worried," one top crew chief said. "But 20 pounds, no."
    The reason for the rule is simple – a few years ago teams were pumping up rear shocks to ridiculous pressures, some as much as 800 PSI, which effectively turned those shocks into time bombs, if they were to explode. So NASCAR came up with a pressure limit.
    "There is a minimum and maximum gas pressure, and these shocks were outside that range," Darby said. "That's why we have to react somehow.
   "This was probably more of a mistake by the team than malicious intent to circumvent the rules.
  "The equipment they used to gas came into question, its accuracy.
  "On Sundays we actually supervise them as they fill the shocks for the race."
   Ty Norris, general manager for Michael Waltrip Racing, said it was simply a miscalibrated gauge: "After qualifying, they said we were off 15 pounds, which you know is miniscule.
    "But we were confused; we purchased this gauge two months ago, and when they said we were off, we took our gauge over there and showed them it measured 75 pounds….while their gauge showed 92.
   "So our gauge was miscalibrated…and we have to take responsibility for that. But this was brand new right out of the box.
   "I think NASCAR could see it was an honest mistake, and that's why you're not seeing more penalties.
   "Yes, it was just an eyelash. But if you're out of bounds, it doesn't matter if it's one blade of grass or eight feet, you're out of bounds."


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