December 8, 2022

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NASCAR decides there will be no penalties for RFK Racing, Team Penske over wheel modifications

Despite confiscating wheels from both RFK Racing and Team Penske in the leadup to last Sunday’s Daytona 500, NASCAR has revealed that neither team will be penalized after making modifications to their wheels. Neither RFK Racing or Team Penske were included on NASCAR’s post-Daytona penalty report, which was released Wednesday afternoon.

Last Friday, NASCAR officials had confiscated wheels from both teams to be taken back to its research and development center in Concord, North Carolina for examination. Ultimately, what came from the confiscation — as well as two other wheel issues seen in the Daytona 500 — was change in wheel specifications for at least this weekend at Fontana.

“NASCAR met with Next Gen suppliers and several race teams this week to discuss wheel specifications. Following that discussion, NASCAR made small adjustments to increase the upper tolerance on pin and pilot bores for Fontana,” read a NASCAR statement. “NASCAR will reevaluate with suppliers and race teams to determine a path forward following this weekend’s race.”

According to Dustin Long of NBC Sports, NASCAR found evidence that both teams reamed their wheels, which is permitted in the NASCAR rule book. Per Section 14.1.N, “Holes, stud, and pin locations may be tapped and/or reamed to return them to their original nominal size. Threaded inserts may be used to repair damaged threaded holes.”

Speaking after the Daytona 500, Roger Penske claimed that his team had been modifying the wheel pin holes for safety purposes due to inconsistencies in the wheels they had received.

“We had contacted NASCAR a week before and said that the wheels we were getting were not all the same, and we felt we needed to modify the holes where the drive pins go,” Penske explained. “We didn’t really get any feedback, and at that point we went ahead and opened the holes up. … I just think there was so much going on and trying to get the communication back and forth — we certainly talked about it with them.”

The reaming done by both RFK and Penske arguably prevented more serious issues with more serious consequences, as other teams experienced in the Daytona 500. Both Kaz Grala and Justin Haley had wheels come off of their cars after making pit stops early in the race, leading to a pair of yellow flags and stiff penalties for their crews.

The results of NASCAR’s confiscation of wheels had been closely monitored, as the sanctioning body had implemented severe penalties — including a potential playoff ban — for illegally modifying vendor-issued parts for the Next Gen car. Although NASCAR seemingly agreed with the teams’ assertion of the reaming being a safety change rather than a change for the sake of performance, Long noted that some have argued that such modifications could provide a competitive advantage by making it easier for a tire changer to put on or take off a wheel.