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Crew chiefs good with NASCAR seizing their tires during race

Steve Letarte explains why NASCAR would be inspecting Kyle Busch's tires for leaks and what it could mean for the No. 18 team at the Tales of the Turtles 400.

JOLIET, Ill. – It might mark the first time it happened in a blue tent on national TV, but checking tires in a Cup race was deemed normal by those affected Sunday.

NASCAR confiscated the tires of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex after pit stops in the second stage of the 2017 playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway (video above). There apparently were no problems found with the tires, which seemed to have been submerged in a dunk tank to check for holes.

Busch’s No. 18 Toyota led 85 of the first 87 laps, and Truex’s No. 78 led 77 laps, including the final 55.

“They do that a lot,” said Adam Stevens, crew chief for Busch. “If you’re leading laps and running up front, they do that a couple of times a weekend. It’s pretty normal. They take them from somebody every week. Somebody’s out there leading laps and pulling away, they’ll take your tires to make sure they’re not leaking air in some way.”

Cole Pearn, crew chief for Truex, estimated his team’s tires probably were seized a half-dozen times this season and 15 times last year.

“Usually when you’re running good, they’re going to come take them,” Pearn said. “That’s fine. They’re just doing their due diligence, doing what they should be doing. No issue there.”

What seemed unusual this time was the blue tent. When NASCAR checks tires during a race, it often is done in a Goodyear building on site. Sometimes, tires are confiscated after a race and sent for independent review (which happened after the March 22, 2015 race at Fontana, Calif., resulting in a major penalty for Ryan Newman’s team).

Stevens said teams are able to see the dunk tank used by NASCAR at many tracks.

“It is not uncommon at all (to check), and as a competitor, I appreciate that they do,” Stevens said. “Because without them checking, somebody would be tempted to pull some of those old-school moves.”

In a tweet Sunday, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, stated how many times series officials have checked tires in the Cup and Xfinity Series this season: