Ingenious Cheats in NASCAR: Edition 5 – Chase Elliott’s Chicagoland Playoff Debacle

Published 01/15/2024, 7:59 AM EST

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Big Brother is watching.” These words by George Orwell encapsulate the essence of a dystopian world in his timeless book, “1984.” While the presence of Big Brother and his watchful eyes in contemporary society is questionable, its presence was felt by the golden boy of NASCAR, Chase Elliott, during his early Cup Series career. However, by no means are the vigilant eyes of Big Brother a political instrument that asserts their stronghold, but are of the netizens, who hardly let any issue pass under their nose unnoticed.

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If one is pondering as to what is being referred to in the previous lines, it is none other than the “Tape Gate” incident in the playoff race in Chicagoland back in 2017. Because of this incident, Elliott and his #24 HMS team were slapped with an L1 penalty and were docked off 15 points. This relegated the driver down in the playoffs standing. Well, if you can’t recall the incident, it is time to pull the curtains off and delve deeper.

Chase Elliott’s championship hopes jeopardized after cheating scandal

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The 2017 Cup Series season marked the sophomore year of Chase Elliott after he had inherited Jeff Gordon’s legendary #24 Chevrolet. Furthermore, the driver was able to prove his prowess as a Cup Series driver in his rookie season, after seizing favorable finishes and being able to qualify for the playoffs. However, Elliott’s early hopes of owning a championship were cut short after being mired in quite a few incidents, one such being the “Tape Gate” incident.

Amidst the cheating scandals that have enveloped the American sports fraternity, “Tape Gate” is one such incident. Moreover, if the term ‘sneaky’ had been personified,  the incident involving the #24 team and Elliott would stand as an epitome of the term. Although the driver was not involved in the whole cheating lore, he faced the wrath of the authorities. The incident transpired on the track of Chicagoland and was caught by eagle-eyed fans, which led to a furor on Reddit.

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The incident: In the playoff race Elliott had finished second after Martin Truex Jr and had collected a stage win. Moreover, after the conclusion of the race, while Elliott was seen speaking to NBC, behind him, Elliott’s crew members were caught rolling their hands and trying to remove a contrivance.

According to the netizens on Reddit, it was speculated that the crew personnel had applied tape on the spoiler and the car wrap lifting off the quarter panel. Owing to this modification, the car would have an increased downforce and side force which in return would help in the better handling of the car in the turns. With the NASCAR community livid over the incident, the authorities dished out a penalty to the driver and his team. 

Brad Keselowski throws a jab at Reddit’s de facto policing agents

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Owing to the penalties that were thrashed upon the team, Elliott’s second position was “encumbered” and was also docked 15 points. This resulted in Elliott being relegated to eighth position from sixth and losing his 33-point cushion in the playoffs. Furthermore, Elliott’s car chief, Joshua Kirk, was handed a one-race suspension, while crew chief Alan Gustafson was fined $25,000 along with a suspension for one race.

Furthermore, the authorities stated it was the “modification of components to affect the aerodynamic properties of the vehicle” that led to the penalty. However, the drastic decision that was taken by the authorities based on the perceptions of fans had the NASCAR drivers questioning the legitimacy of the ruling.

Brad Keselowski took to Twitter as he wondered when social media became a voice of vigilance. He expressed, Wow, when did @NASCARonReddit turn into the new @NASCAR FBI?”

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With that being said, this was assuredly a lesson learned in a hard way by Chase Elliott and his team. Although a long time has passed away since then, this cheating incident remains iconic for the NASCAR world to look back and muse on.

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Written by:

Ayantika Maitra

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One take at a time

Had you asked an individual from the yesteryears, they would have easily asserted that motorsport is surely not a women?s forte. However, times have changed. And changing the narrative, here I am writing and analyzing the world of NASCAR, with over a corpus of 500 articles to my name.
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Edited by:

Shubhankar Adhikari

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