The NHRA Nevada Nationals brought many things to light, specifically the way tech inspections have been handled and the processes surrounding this procedure.
One of the teams the NHRA tech department issued a “Statement of Action Against Participant” was Elite Motorsports, and it wasn’t just one of its Pro Stock cars, but four.
As a result, Scott “Woody” Woodruff, Director of Branding & Motorsports at Elite, calls for a change to the system.
“I think that NHRA is the only major motorsport in the country that doesn’t have an appeal process for something tech and competition-related,” stated Woodruff. “You know, that’s a shame. That’s something that needs to be changed.”
The runs made by Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield, and Jerry Don Tucker were all thrown out due to a technical violation with the bypassing of the Leahy system after round two on Friday at the Nevada Nationals.
“We have four drivers that got fined, and in all reality, the drivers shouldn’t be the ones that get fined,” said Woodruff. “They have nothing to do with the car. They just drive the car. It’s just another antiquated system that they have that they need to get up to date on.”
This issue could have been addressed earlier in the race, and even the season for that matter, to avoid the whole scenario from happening. However, each driver received a $5,000 fine and had their runs disqualified. Woodruff stated that the fines have been paid, but, had there been an appeal process, the team would have most definitely moved forward in pursuing that route.
“My personal opinion is that they’re picking on the teams that they want to pick on at this point,” he said, continuing to elaborate on the said violation.
“The moral to the story is there are two switches that you’re allowed to use – one of them is made by Modern Racing, and the other one is made by Flaming River. The Modern Racing one plugs right into the Leahy box, and the Flaming River does not, but it’s not specified how it should be wired in the rulebook,” he explained. “Clearly, if there was an appeal process, this would be appealed, but there’s not.”
As far as whether the cars have been wired this way since the start of the season, Woodruff neither denied nor confirmed the statement.
“I can say it’s interesting that – let’s take Jeg [Coughlin] Jr.’s car that he’s driving for Erica, her brand new car – it went through the chamber, it went through the tech process at the track, and it was fine. So nothing was changed on that car between when it got to Vegas to when they found their said violation.”
Another interesting aspect of these ongoing tech chronicles is Clay Millican’s disqualification and fine at the Texas FallNationals. If anything, more questions have been raised. What happened in his situation that called for a complete disqualification and a fine, but Millican is also allowed to appeal the decision?
However, in Elite’s case, were they not disqualified from the entire event because it was only during qualifying?
Again – some additional information and education from the sanctioning body would prove extremely helpful for racers, teams and fans.
“At the end of the day, it’s their sandbox,” he said. “We just get to bring our shovels, you know. But there is a large group of people that bring their shovels that also pay for a lot of the sand.
“I read what Ron Capps said,” Woodruff stated, referring to the previous breakdown of disqualified passes on Drag Illustrated, “and he’s 100% right. It’s NHRA’s job to make sure that we have a level playing field, and it’s NHRA’s job to tech the cars in a professional manner to where that happens. All four of those cars that were DQ’d should have been found in a pre-race inspection, and not to mention, it should have been found way before it was.
“So, who’s not doing their job here? NHRA’s the one that’s not doing their job. Take Jake Hairston [engine builder and crew chief for Elite], for example, he wrote a majority of the rulebook. If he didn’t want this switch to be found that we had to use to make this Flaming River switch work, who else is going to come up with a different way? They never would have found it to begin with, so there is nothing malicious about it. We weren’t pretending to hide anything. We came up with a solution that the rulebook did not have a solution for, and apparently, our solution wasn’t something that they liked.”
As a conclusion, Woodruff has an idea for an appeal process for tech inspections. An appeal process currently exists for non-track and non-competition infractions.
“I will present the idea to the PRO [Professional Racers Owners Organization] Board when we meet, most of which already agreed that it’s the right thing,” Woodruff said, eventually planning on presenting it to the NHRA in the near future.
Additionally, he stated that there will be a number of professional teams asking for their cars to be inspected on-site at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, California. “There are championships on the line, and this seems the most prudent thing to do,” he continued.
“It’s a shame that it gets down to the end of the year, and right now, they just want to be nit-picky, which is fine. It’s their prerogative, but you have to have a level playing field. I could go on and on and on about the differences of our program and other programs out there, and if I wanted to, I could name four things right now that are illegal on competitors’ cars that go absolutely unchecked.
“They don’t care – they just obviously have the people that they want to try and make a statement about and that’s fine. But I can tell you, I am so looking forward to having a race in February where the racers understand the process from A to Z. I’m not throwing a dart – I’m just saying I’m looking forward to it personally.”