ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Roger Penske has warned his NASCAR team to stay out of any controversy regarding the possible manipulation of tires used during races.
The team owner is aware of rampant industry speculation that some crews are drilling tiny holes in tires to allow air to escape during a race, a process known as "bleeding tires." NASCAR has confiscated tires the last two weeks, including those of Team Penske driver Joey Logano following the race at Phoenix.
Logano and Kevin Harvick's tires both cleared a second inspection. NASCAR took tires from four other drivers after last week's race at California, but results of an independent inspection haven't been released.
"It's my understanding that there could be ways to have the tires lose pressure over a stint," Penske said Saturday at the IndyCar Series event at St. Petersburg.
"Obviously with softer tires, you are going to have better grip and better performance. I've told our guys 'Hey, let's stay out of this.' I can tell you this: we are not making any adjustments to our tires for that type of activity."
Penske didn't know what NASCAR was looking for when it took Logano's tires after the March 15 race at Phoenix. He also doesn't know if anyone in the Sprint Cup Series garage is actually bleeding tires.
"I can't ever point my finger at anyone else. At the end of the day, guys go fast for different reasons, and someone has an idea that that's going on," Penske said. "I've seen no evidence at this point, at least it hasn't been show to me, to say 'this is happening.'
"The only finger I'm pointing is at my own guys to make sure we're not involved in anything like that."
NASCAR on Friday reminded crew chiefs that deliberately altering tires will receive a harsh penalty.
NASCAR has called the inspection of tires the last two weeks a "routine audit," but the tires taken from Harvick, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard last Sunday were sent to an independent facility for testing after they were first examined at NASCAR's R&D Center in North Carolina. That third party test has not been revealed.
According to the NASCAR rule book, a tire violation would likely be subject to a P5 penalty that warrants the loss of 50 points, a fine between $75,000 and $125,000, and a six-race suspension.
Many competitors argued manipulating tires should be subject to one of the stiffest penalties in NASCAR history, and Penske didn't disagree that it's unwritten code not to mess with tires.
"That's one of the conditions, you talk about fuel, you talk about engine (being) oversized, you talk about fooling around with the tires -- I would assume that's pretty much they kick you out (of NASCAR)," Penske said. "We all want to be competitive and we are all working on the edge all the time, but I think there are a few areas which are definitely over the line."