SPEED TV is taking some major heat today, in the aftermath of an apparently erroneous report that said NASCAR found improprieties with Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton’s right-front wheels at New Hampshire International Speedway.
On Sunday night’s edition of “NASCAR Victory Lane,” reporter Bob Dillner claimed that Harvick and Burton enjoyed a performance advantage at NHIS, due to wheels that had been modified to act as a bleeder valve, releasing air pressure from the tire. In addition, Dillner said RCR personnel had been told by NASCAR not to bring the offending wheels to the track again.
The modification "actually allowed some air to escape from the rim, and it was a performance advantage, basically, for the No. 29 and the No. 31 teams," Dillner said. "There's been a lot of talk this year about teams doing this sort of thing in the garage area, but nobody was ever caught with it."
Dillner told host Dave Despain, “Nothing will come of it, because it's one of those patented gray areas that we always talk about. It's a very gray area deal, (but) NASCAR did see something that they didn't like tonight, and told them, `Hey guys, let's not do that again.’”
Team owner Richard Childress responded angrily to those charges Monday, releasing a statement saying, “reports in the media, specifically on SPEED TV, that one or more of our NEXTEL Cup Series teams was found by NASCAR to be manipulating the rules yesterday at New Hampshire International Speedway are false and misleading. Our cars passed post-race inspection, and officials at NASCAR assured us last night and again today that no one from RCR was told at any time not to bring a part back to the racetrack. The reported events and conversations did not happen.”
On Monday’s edition of Sirius Speedway, NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter also reacted strongly to the report, calling it “pure fantasy,” and “sensationalist journalism.”
“NASCAR’s inspection process is open to the media,” said Hunter. “As you know, we are willing to answer questions about the process at any time. We weren’t asked any questions before the report aired, and we haven’t been asked any questions since. The report is absolutely false, and a great disservice to the teams in question.”
Despite those rebukes, SPEED Executive Producer for NASCAR Programming Chris Long stood by Dillner’s report, saying, “Bob Dillner has a strong record of solid reporting from the NASCAR garage; so there is no rational reason for us to consider that the events and conversations he related to SPEED viewers are anything other than the truth.”
SPEEDTV.com appeared to attempt to distance itself from the story early Monday, directing readers to FoxSports.com for a story on the alleged rules violations. In that story, however, FOX Sports staff reporters cited Dillner’s report directly. You can read that article in its entirety HERE.
Asked about the controversy Monday, Harvick told Sirius Speedway that he believes RCR was set-up by another team, in an effort to create controversy.
"I absolutely think it was a plant from another team," said Harvick. "NASCAR didn't say anything (to SPEED), so it's pretty obvious to me where it came from. It's an attempt to try and distract us from what we're doing, but they're going to have to do a lot better than that." Harvick said he believes he knows who planted the story, but declined to name names.