Thursday, September 30, 2010
Analyst critical of NASCAR's logic
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The reconstruction analyst who testified that Clint Bowyer's New Hampshire Sprint Cup car was knocked out of tolerance by a wrecker labeled NASCAR's arguments against his findings as nonsense.
Dr. Charles Manning of Raleigh, N.C.-based Accident Reconstruction Analysis said two tests of a wrecker pushing a car set up the same as Bowyer's winning No. 33 in the Chase opener showed the left rear end moved upward 40 thousandths of one inch.
Testifying Wednesday on behalf of Richard Childress Racing, Manning told the National Stock Car Racing Commission that heard the appeal that his scientific study "clearly" explains the 39,000th of an inch NASCAR told RCR officials the car was beyond tolerances.
"They came out this morning and claimed it was negated by the telemetry which didn't show a very sharp impact," Manning said Thursday. "We didn't have any sharp impact, either. We pushed it easily. They said the visual inspection of the car showed nothing in the way of damage. Well, after we got through testing none of the cars showed anything of note or damage.
"They said the visual inspection of the postrace push showed they pushed very gentle. We pushed more gentle ... between six and 10 miles per hour. So what they said was a bunch of malarkey."
The commission turned down RCR's appeal of the 150-point fine for Bowyer and six-week suspension for crew chief Shane Wilson by a 3-0 vote. Manning hopes the final appeal to chief appellate officer John Middlebrook will come out differently.
"We hope that this court of appeal will listen a little more and understand that what we did was very scientific," said Manning, who expected the appeal to be heard next week. "We had good telemetry. We recorded and measured everything very accurately.
"NASCAR doesn't have to get after us. We didn't disagree it was off speculation, but the reason it was is because of the wrecker and not because of something the Richard Childress Racing team did."
Manning said the only way he can have more exact data than what he collected during the reconstruction at Charlotte Motor Speedway using a duplicate of Bowyer's car and a wrecker similar to the one at New Hampshire is to inspect the car in violation.
He said NASCAR has not let him or RCR officials look at the car.
"All we get from them is the stuff from behind closed doors," said Manning, whose company helped CMS win its case when a pedestrian bridge collapsed after a race in 2000. "I've been doing this for 45 years. When we go to court I've got photos and measurements. We haven't seen any photos. We haven't seen any measurements."
Manning said his tests rule out the possibility that Bowyer's car could be out of tolerance from a bump by another car on the track. Because of the way the bumpers match up, he said the tolerance would be lower and NASCAR ruled the rear deck lid on Bowyer's car driven at Loudon was higher.
He said the positioning of the wrecker pushed the rear of the car higher, adding strain gauges used on the bumper during the test showed the bumper was getting a "big load" even with a gentle push.
"So that's why it was up in the air," Manning said, his voice growing louder.
Team owner Richard Childress issued a statement Thursday reiterating his frustration with with the outcome of Wednesday's appeal.
"I am disappointed but not surprised by the decision knowing how the appeal system is structured," Childress said. "We proved beyond a reasonable doubt how the car was found to be out of tolerance after the race. Knowing how the system works, I brought a check with me to cover the cost of the appeal hearing and we have already submitted our request to appeal to the chief appellate officer."
NASCAR officials said they can't release specific data used to defend their case until the final appeal is heard.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.