NASCAR: Rear housing devices legal

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- NASCAR officials said mechanical devices the Hendrick Motorsports teams and other organizations in the Sprint Cup Series are using to gain a competitive advantage in the rear housing are legal -- today.

"We watch it weekly because it has ramped up the last couple of months," series director John Darby said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "If it stays pretty level we'll probably leave it alone the rest of the year. If there is a higher extreme somebody takes it to that could create issues we don't want to see, then we'll react to that."

The Hendrick cars in May were the first this season to develop devices that allow the rear axle to turn slightly to follow the front, creating more speed particularly in the corners.

Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski called that into question after last weekend's race at Michigan, where Jimmie Johnson dominated until blowing an engine with six laps remaining.

Keselowski also mentioned the advantage Johnson's team in particular seemed to have at Indianapolis last month.

"There are parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive," Keselowski said after his second-place finish at Michigan. "Some guys have it, some don't. There's a
question to the interpretation of the rule.

"Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don't want to be the guys that get the big penalty. Obviously, there's a question to the interpretation, that as of right now it's legal. But I'm sure that Roger [Penske] doesn't want to be the one caught red-handed."

Keselowski said Thursday that he did not mean to insinuate that the HMS cars were cheating. He found himself defending his Michigan remarks this past week on Twitter.

"Partially, what I was trying to describe is the difference of what we need to be able to make a legitimate run for the Chase," Keselowski said. "I think my team has done a great job of executing. I don't think anyone is doing a better job than we are right now.

"I'd like a little more speed, and we're working on that intently. My comments in general were an observation, and I think those were turned around into an accusation of cheating."

Keselowski said Penske Racing is looking at ways to catch the competition in terms of rear housing.

"Without tipping too much of our hand, it's certainly an area that every team in the garage is evaluating," he said. "I'm not going to get into our particular strategy, but it's certainly something we're watching, and I think that's our strongest message."

Darby and NASCAR director of competition Robin Pemberton said all four HMS cars have been inspected closely at the Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., to make sure they were within the rules.

There have been no penalties levied against those cars, but issues were discovered on Paul Menard's Richard Childress Racing car last weekend that led to the suspension of crew chief Slugger Labbe and a 25-point penalty for the team.

Richard Childress Racing is appealing the penalties NASCAR levied against Menard's race team this week.

"Where we're at today, right now, there is no illegal procedures going on," Darby said. "Obviously, there was one we found Tuesday that was questionable. But the mechanical devices, the way they're using them, there's a clear understanding of what the teams are doing."

Darby said teams are using different methods to create a "hook and ladder fire truck effect that allows the rear axle to turn so the rear of the car follows the front."

He said there's nothing in the current rulebook that doesn't allow that, but he didn't rule out that changing in 2013.

"It's just a direct everybody has gone to maximize, optimize," Darby said. "Right now it's pretty level throughout the garage. If you take the most extreme to the least developed, it's not a huge difference."