One week ago, Stephen Nasse crossed the finish line as the unofficial winner of the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby. Nearly three hours later, he was disqualified for a brake violation and Travis Braden was declared the official winner of the prestigious race at Five Flags Speedway.
Since that night there have been many opinions and comments made about what may or may not have led to Nasse being disqualified in post-race technical inspection. In an exclusive interview with Speed51, Chief Technical Inspector Ricky Brooks explained and clarified the technical inspection process that led to Nasse being disqualified for having titanium in the brake system.
According to Brooks, the decision to investigate the items that were ultimately checked – including the brake calipers – wasn’t made until 10 minutes prior to the first car entering the technical inspection area. Brooks claims that this approach is standard procedure for all events that he works as the head of post-race inspection.
“No matter what race it is, we don’t know what we’re checking until after the event,” Brooks began. “In this particular race, I was confined to a scooter or crutches so I gave everybody that was helping me a job and they went off and they did their job. We actually already had somebody checking lead and stuff before the calipers ever got removed, but the person that was doing the calipers went and removed the calipers.
“I decided about 10 minutes before they rolled on the scales of what we were going to check. I gave everybody a job and I went to the brake rule because I didn’t see anything in the race that told me that we needed to pull motors or check motors. We had already pulled and sealed all the carburetors and stuff, so we went towards ignitions, checking for tungsten in the car anywhere; I had one guy checking the suspension parts in the back for anything that is moveable, and I had another guy checking the brakes.”
Since that night, it has been alleged that Brooks was tipped off about the possibility that there was titanium in the brake package on Nasse’s No. 51 Super Late Model.
When asked about receiving a tip, Brooks said that he did not have any prior knowledge about the brake systems being used on any of the cars competing in the Snowball Derby.
“Under no circumstances did Chris (Dilbeck from PFC Brakes) or anybody else say anything to me about calipers or anything else on the race cars,” Brooks stated. “I’ve tried to get Chris to check some stuff for me from the Trans-Am world before and he wouldn’t do it because he’s in that world.
“As far as the other night, I didn’t know what calipers anybody had on their cars. We had one car with AP, one car with Willwood, I think we ended up with one car with PFCs on it. We had one car with the Brembo brakes on it. [Nasse’s car] ended up having what we hoped we wouldn’t find.
“I knew about that stuff from the Trans-Am world from the TA class. We have a cost-containment rule in the TA2 class and we make sure none of that stuff makes it over into that world. That’s why I started looking into the Late Model side for that stuff. A lot of times we’re looking around with flashlights and stuff, looking at stuff and people ask what we’re looking for and we don’t tell them. That’s the exact reason we don’t tell them, because we don’t want this stuff popping up in the Late Model world. We try to keep all of that crazy stuff out.”
Despite the pre-race technical inspection that is done on the cars leading into the big race, Brooks explained that it is impossible to check every aspect of the race car before the green flag. Ultimately, he believes it is up to the race teams and manufacturers to make sure they are following the rule book in order to avoid potential issues after the race.
“There’s no way to tech the entire race car in pre-tech,” Brooks said. “We’re not going to remove the calipers, just like we wouldn’t check or remove stuff on the engine or anything like that beforehand. We’re not going to make them tear their suspensions apart. Some things just have to fall on the teams and the manufacturers. This particular case is probably a manufacturer. The manufacturer, he knew the rule book or they just didn’t care what the rule book says. I think that’s becoming more and more of the problem. They don’t care what the rule book says, they just tell or give parts to people and if they get away with it so be it.
“In today’s racing world, everybody is looking for the slight little bit that can help them. Every team is trying to get everything they can. They just have to make sure that they read the rule book better.”
In addition to clarifying the process that led to Nasse’s disqualification, Brooks also provided insight in regards to the Hamner engine used by 2018 race winner Noah Gragson and Kyle Busch Motorsports.
According to Brooks, engines were pulled that night for dyno testing in order to maintain a level-playing field. After follow-up testing, it was announced that Hamner engines would need to undergo an intake change to bring their sealed engines to the proper performance levels.
Brooks indicated that engines were not pulled that night with the potential to impact the outcome of the race.
“We told everybody when we pulled motors that we were doing this for dyno purposes only and for information; it did not affect the outcome of the race. Since then, we had done some more dyno work and that’s when we uncovered the Hamner stuff, and we moved on from there.”
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manger - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com