LUCAMA, NC :: Controversy has rocked the Limited Late Model division at Southern National Motorsports Park all season. On Saturday night, another championship contender was disqualified from a podium finish. Now, that decision is under review.
This time, the driver is division points leader Haley Moody. Moody, the lone female competitor in Limited Late Model competition at Southern National, entered the race with a 26 point lead over Spain. During the twin 35-lap races, Moody was the center of attention in spite of Andrew Grady’s dominant performances.
Moody started the first race in the third position and began an aggressive pursuit for a second consecutive victory. However, the early laps resulted in Moody being relegated back to the fifth position after contact with Rusty Daniels. Moody said Daniels had her “jacked up for a couple of laps” prior to getting around her. While she was able to hang on to the car, the damage was being done.
Moody was now embroiled in a battle with her main championship rival, Dillon Spain. Spain entered the race with a 26 point deficit and needed to run well and needed Moody to have some bad luck to have a chance at the title. That bad luck occurred off his front bumper. The result was Moody spinning. However, she was able to avoid a catastrophe and keep the car off the wall and continue racing.
“I passed him, I don’t remember what lap it was, and he just hit me from behind and turned me,” Moody said. “I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, he just nailed me.”
The top six cars were inverted for the second race, after track announcer Ken Childs had previously announced over the public address system that the entire nine car field would be inverted, putting Moody on the pole. She survived the initial start of the race but had problems on a lap two restart, resulting in her again dropping back to mid-pack. She worked her way back up through the field and was running in the third position coming to the white flag. On the final lap, she was able to get a bumper to Daniels and get around him for second.
All in all, it had appeared that she escaped a breathtaking and volatile night and extended her points lead by Spain. But, that second place finish would not stand.
When Moody’s car was taken across the scales, it had been three pounds too light. After double-checking the weight of the car, at crew-chief Jamey Caudill’s request, her car was still too light. Southern National Motorsports Park co-owner Michael Diaz, who was leading technical inspection in the absence of the track’s regular chief technical inspector Jackie Lawson, said the car was too light because the team did not refuel in-between races, as is required by the track.
“She came across the scales at the end of the second race and she was light,” Diaz said. “They did not add fuel to the car. It was openly admitted by Jamey and the crew. They forgot to add fuel to the car. The car was too light.”
Moody said that there is no rule requiring teams to refuel in between races.
“There was a bad situation,” Moody, who was devastated over the disqualification, said. “They said we were too light. We went across the scales. They said at the beginning of the year that we could fill up after the race. But, if you don’t fill up, every lap, they calculate so much fuel that you use per lap. I don’t even know.”
Moody was referring to the weight rules listed on the first page of the track’s Limited Late Model rulebook, which states that, when cars are weighed after a race, team can only add water in the radiator, two quarts of oil in the engine and fuel may be added – at the race director’s discretion. The rulebook also gives track officials an option not to disqualify someone if they deem the infraction to be something that is not a competitive advantage and if that infraction is corrected within 72 hours.
That, however, is not the basis for the official review of Moody’s disqualification, according to Diaz. Southern National Motorsports Park, like most tracks, calculates estimated fuel loss when they weigh the cars. The difference is that Southern National also factors in caution laps. In Moody’s case, the car is supposed to weigh 3,075 pounds with the driver in the cockpit prior to the race. After the races, the track takes a formula to calculate weight loss caused by fuel usage and burn-off.
That formula is to take the weight of the car and calculate the number of laps (twin 35-lap races, in this case) multiplied by .75. After the first race, Moody’s car came across the scales after the first race at the proper weight, so her sixth place result in that race would stand. The second race, the car came across too light.
After they weighed her car once, the car was ‘impounded’ by track officials and, after they cleared the remainder of the cars, four track officials rolled the car back to the scale house and weighed it again and it was too light. They also tore her car down and determined that all her parts were legal and that the issue was with fuel.
However, Diaz told RACE22.com that the track used a different formula last year. Last year, during twin races, the cars were essentially impounded after the first race. The only change teams could make was to move one tire. Because of that, the tech procedures were different. Instead of calculating for 35 laps after each race when weighing the cars, the track would calculate for 70 laps – the sum of both races combined.
“Last year, we didn’t let anyone do anything to their car between twin races,” Diaz stated. “You couldn’t change a hard part; you could only change a tire from the right side to the left side. At the end of the second race, we calculated that coefficient. This year, it’s very clear. We wanted competitors to make changes to their cars if they weren’t right in the first race. If they want to change a part, we permit it now. In order to do that, we treat each race as separate individual races.”
This is where things get confusing.
When talking with Moody, she said that there had been an instance a couple of races ago where a driver, who we have chosen not to name, had gone through tech, was too light under similar circumstances but that the driver was allowed to keep their finishing position because of an “error” in postrace technical inspection. After her car had been double-checked, torn down and been thrown out of the race, this was brought to the attention of Diaz.
Diaz confirmed that this discrepancy had been brought to his attention and that this was the basis for the review.
“We treat each individual race as two separate races and it was brought to my attention that it might not have been doing that,” Diaz explained. “I’ve got nothing else to hide, someone else said something similar happened at the beginning of the year and I don’t know what race it was or date, but the driver said, hey, this happened at another race and they counted the coefficient.
“We don’t take 70 laps times .75 for the fuel calculation, we take 35 laps. But, since my regular techs were not there last night and someone brought it to my knowledge and we always give the racer the benefit of the doubt, I said, bring your car here, remove the same parts that I had everyone else remove in LLM and LMSC, I want to tech them. We had them remove the same parts. All the parts were fine but she’s still light”
Diaz said the results are pending review because, with the absence of Jackie Lawson and Jason Merriman, he has to get in touch with them to confirm whether this had, in fact, happened.
“I’m holding the results until I speak with Jackie Lawson. He wasn’t there due to previous commitments. With someone telling me that’s now how Jackie did it, I decided to hold the results until I speak with him. As of right now, I have not spoken with him. I just got off the phone with him briefly but I need to speak with Jason Merriman. Those are the two I need to talk to make sure it hasn’t gone down this way.
“What they’re trying to tell me is that, somewhere this season, we used that coefficient of x and, since we ran twin 35s, we used it and multiplied that by two for 70. I’m trying to find out if that was valid or not. If it was and it occurred this year, I have to make this right.”
Diaz also addressed the number of disqualifications this season at Southern National in the Limited Late Model division, where there had been 13 disqualifications prior to Saturday’s race. Diaz also said he felt he shares some responsibility himself for the situation involving Haley Moody.
“What I’ve tried to do all year is be fair and consistent with all my competitors. Yes, SNMP has disqualified a whole bunch of cars, but we’ve disqualified them because they’re wrong. We have a rulebook, it’s black and white, they didn’t meet it. We have precedents. In my driver’s meeting, I did not mention that twin races, we count them separate, fill up on fuel. If I had said that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation but, because I did not say that, this time, I have to do my research to make sure what they’re saying occurred a couple weeks ago whether it did or did not happen.”
Diaz said during my discussion with him that he was now in a no-win situation, a sentiment Moody echoed. Moody, who appeared devastated, did not offer much commentary, other than calling it a bad deal.
Regardless of the outcome, the Southern National Limited Late Model championship will have been decided in the tech shed and not on the racetrack. Prior to Saturday’s race, Moody had scored two wins and 12 top-five finishes. Her main championship rival, Dillon Spain, who has scored six top-five finishes this season, would presumably inherit the points lead by around 20 points or so with either three or four races remaining.
Of course, with Moody being the lone female competitor in the division, the track will likely face additional scrutiny, regardless of what their decision ends up being.
Our request for a comment from Dillon Spain has not been returned.
RACE22.com will have an update when more Information becomes available and when the official decision becomes public.