"It isn't cheating until you get caught." Isn't that what they always say? Robbie Pyle was caught by ASA officials after the race at Cedar Rapids (IA), but the question is, was he really cheating? And did the infraction make a difference in his car's performance?
If you follow ASA, you've probably heard the story about Robbie Pyle's plight in post-race tech at Hawkeye Downs Speedway. His fuel cell was found to be too low during inspections. So Pyle, who finished second, was punished by having 10-percent of his winnings from that night taken away and 50-points deducted from his championship chase.
"I'm sick about it," Pyle told us over the phone. "We don't want to be labeled as cheaters. I feel like we were blindsided. It was not a fair shake, that's for sure."
No fair? How low was the fuel cell? Doesn't matter. ASA rules state the fuel cell container must be a minimum of 11 inches above the ground plane and the one on the #63 car wasn't.
"I believe them that it was low, I don't think they are fibbing," admitted Pyle.
The real question is 'Does the punishment fit the crime?' The harshness of the penalty comes into question when you weigh in the fact of whether or not there was an advantage in having the fuel cell lower than is allowed.
"The fuel cell being too low doesn't make any difference in the performance of the racecar," said Pyle. "It makes me mad because we lost 50-points out of the deal. It's not something that made a difference in how our car ran.
"It's is pretty harsh, especially since it wasn't like we were trying to cheat on something. We didn't have an illegal part that gave us an advantage."
And that's where things get sticky for the mere fact that several cars have had their share of trouble going through tech this year.
Pyle is focused on the championship and a penalty from ASA for cheating didn't help.
"At the first race they had a few cars that didn't pass tech and they didn't do anything," Pyle stated. "And Garvey, who is a buddy of mine, had a problem with his fuel (too much fuel pressure was being delivered to the engine) after qualifying at Toledo and he didn't have any points taken away from him." (Garvey did have his qualifying time disallowed for the infraction.)
ASA's statement about the entire situation was simple, traditional and appropriate in this situation for the sanctioning body.
"Per the rulebook, the fuel cell is a 11-inch minimum and in post-race technical inspection, the No. 63 car didn't meet those regulations," said Kim Shaver, who is ASA's Technical Director. "We never like this to occur with any of our competitors, after the team put together such a great finish, but we have to enforce the rulebook. We felt based on the nature of the infraction, the fine and point deduction was a fitting penalty."
Garvey's #17 failed post- qualifying tech at Toledo
...but he had no points taken away from him. Fair or not?
The fitting penalty is the part that is being questioned. In fact, the WalTom Racing team is weighing their options on how to pursue a follow-up on this matter, especially since Pyle claims that fuel cell heights are something that is not regularly checked in ASA.
"That's not an item that we check all the time and it wasn't checked until after the race. They did check it the week before at Toledo and it was fine. The difference is we had two different setups in the car from Toledo to Cedar Rapids. We raised the car up at Toledo and ran our normal setup this past week. It's not enough that you could notice by looking at it.
"They (ASA officials) just don't check it very often. It's (the fuel cell) usually bolted in the car and you don't worry about it. It's not that big of a deal. Our quarter panel heights were too low when we got there (to Cedar Rapids) and they told us about it. We wanted to raise them anyway because we wanted our rear spoiler up in the air (for that track). But they didn't check the fuel cell height until after the race. Maybe they want to make an example out of us."
What hurts is that because of the penalty, Pyle and the team fall from third in the standings to fifth. They are now 187-points behind leader Kevin Cywinski with 11 races left on the schedule.
"That was going to be a good points day for us because Butch had problems and Kevin finished behind us too. It probably knocked us back; it certainly didn't move us any closer to first."
50-points is a big penalty for any team to overcome while attempting to win a championship and Pyle knows it. So is this matter over or is there still more to be said? Only time will tell.
Pyle isn't pleased...but he won't let that stop him from going after more ASA wins.