Chris Buescher’s No. 37 car during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International.
Photo: Julie Jacobson (AP)

At its top levels, NASCAR is a constant contest of trying to find the best and most creative ways to cheat. This time around, NASCAR had to crack down on teams deliberately designing paint schemes meant to trick its inspection system, which determines whether cars are following the rulebook.

Not only are NASCAR teams always trying to out-cheat each other—by using windshield wipers in the sun, mysteriously winding up with a caved-in back windshield, doing sketchy stuff in the background of the television broadcast or body slamming their own cars on pit road—they’re also in a constant game of “tag, you’re it” with the people who make the rules.

We’re at the “tag” part right now.

NASCAR introduced a new inspection system at the beginning of the season, replacing its old laser scanner with a new system that makes a 3D heat map of a car and then compares it to a scan that’s legal under the rulebook. NASCAR said the new system would be “far more thorough” than the last, and seems to be—at any given race this year, it isn’t surprising to see more than a dozen of the 40 cars fail inspection. It also isn’t surprising to see several cars fail multiple times.

Thirteen cars failed at Pocono Raceway in July, and Autosport quoted NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, Scott Miller, as saying most failures there came during the body scan. The new system can catch body alterations that aren’t noticeable with the human eye, yet make a slight difference on track.

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But with every new attempt NASCAR makes at curbing teams’ efforts to bend the rules, there’s a new attempt by teams to curb things back in their favor. Cars recently started showing up at tracks with black trim along their paint schemes, and it wasn’t just for looks.

Some cars are running trim down the side skirts, along the back wheel wells and up the rear corners of the race cars, with Racer reporting that the belief is light or dark colors along those areas can reduce the scanner’s effectiveness—thus letting teams try to get away with more tweaks to the car’s body.

Some of the more obvious attempts.
Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP (top photos, bottom left), Derik Hamilton/AP (bottom right)

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Racer said in an Aug. 4 report that NASCAR confirmed it sent a memo warning teams not to use schemes meant to deceive the inspection system. Because the sanctioning body approves schemes before they run, the memo said NASCAR would deny anything that looks like it was meant to cheat inspection.

But not just the new paint schemes will get a closer eye. From Racer:

Additionally, if any scheme has already been approved and is deemed to have been modified, it is NASCAR’s discretion to have a developer spray applied (which will enhance the definition of the surface) before going through the inspection process.

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Scratch this attempt. It worked for a few weeks, at least.

Tune in next week to see if NASCAR teams have found a workaround for this new rule yet, because tag, they’re it.