O’Donnell discusses Twitter war and tire dunking

Barry Cantrell/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

Despite the on-track action that took place across all three national series in NASCAR, the talk of the weekend was a Twitter war between drivers and the inspection of tires at Chicagoland Speedway. NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell, joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s, “The Morning Drive”, to discuss those issues.

On Friday, Brad Keselowski responded to a tweet from Jeff Gluck that showcased Toyota’s dominance in the top-four positions in the weekend’s opening practice session. In his tweet, Keselowski claimed that he has not seen NASCAR give an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) as much as an advantage since the 1970’s. According to O’Donnell, the sanctioning body saw it as the competitor in Keselowski, instead of a serious issue.

“I think we look at it as the competitor. It is our job to put a level playing field out there. We have a submission process that each of the OEM’s goes through and witnesses,” O’Donnell stated. “We believe they are at a level playing field. For us, I look at it as a little bit of posturing. Brad certainly ran well this weekend.”

The comments came at a time when NASCAR was kicking off its playoff season. This is the time of the year when the cream rises to the top in regards to performance. O’Donnell believes that the playing field for all three OEM’s is equal. NASCAR will reevaluate the equality of the playing field in the offseason.

Another issue from the weekend arose during the Tales of The Turtles 400. NASCAR told the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch and the No. 78 team of Martin Truex Jr to bring the set of tires they had taken off their car to a blue tent. In this tent, NASCAR dunked the tires in water to inspect the legality of the tires and to make sure no teams were cheating.

After the race, Cole Pearn, crew chief for Truex, confirmed that this was a common practice by NASCAR.

“We’ve had that a lot. I think last year they took them like 15 times or something like that. Usually when you’re running good, they’re going to come take ’em.  That’s fine.  They’re just doing their due diligence, doing what they should be doing.  No issue there,” said Pearn.

O’Donnell explained why the sanctioning body performs this type of inspection on the tires.

“It’s something we have done just to make sure for the competitors that everyone is on a level playing field. It helps us with Goodyear as well to make sure their tires are legit, which we always found they are,” said O’Donnell. “It’s one of those things that keep the competitors on their toes as well. It’s not something that we showcase. It’s an inspection tool that we use from time to time.”

O’Donnell was quick to mention that he does not get to watch the television broadcast during the race. He mentioned that the inspection of tires was a focal point in the broadcast that turned a non-story into a story.

“It’s one of those things that isn’t a story. You can certainly try to make it one. We are choosing to focus on what is happening on the racetrack. When it’s not a controversial issue, we move on and talk about the racing and what is happening out there.”

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