By Toby Christie
Post-race inspection and penalties. It’s raised the ire of NASCAR fans for years. How is it that a driver or team can cheat, yet keep the trophy that comes from winning a race with an illegal race car?
It’s long been a valid question. Now, it’s finally being addressed.
Monday, NASCAR competition officials released sweeping changes to the post-race inspection procedure, as well as changes to the penalties stemming from major infractions following the race.
Starting with Speedweeks at Daytona, post-race tear-down inspection — which typically has been done at the NASCAR R&D Center during the week following the race — will now be done immediately following each race. The race winner, runner-up and a random car will go through this stringent inspection.
Under this new system, if a race-winning car fails inspection — for something more severe than a missing lug nut — they will not simply suffer an encumbered victory. Now, illegal winners will be disqualified from the race. The driver and team will also lose any playoff or stage points and the car will be sent to the dead-last spot and will receive one point.
Everyone else in the field will move up a spot, making the runner-up finisher the new winner of the race.
If second place also fails, they will be sent to the back of the field. In this scenario, the third-place finisher would be your race winner.
This is a major shift in NASCAR policy, but a necessary one according to NASCAR.
“I think for us, we’re really looking at a total culture change,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. “We’ve been through a deterrence model where we’ve really worked with the race teams at the track and probably been more lenient than we should in terms of the number of times teams can go through inspection and pass, fail and there’s almost incentive to try to get something by NASCAR, so we want to really reverse that trend.
“We’re going to put it on the teams to bring their equipment right. When they come to the track, we’ll be much less lenient as they go through technical inspection with stiffer penalties in terms of qualifying, and then ultimately during the race, obviously we want everyone to be racing straight up.”
According to NASCAR’s new director of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, this new rule is an effort to make the week leading up to the next race feel less like a circus.
“We want to be able to avoid the Tuesday, Wednesday announcements of penalties,” said Jay Fabian, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Director. “We want to take that story line away and we’ve got to be rid of all that. So, it’s up to the teams to behave the right way and if they don’t, they’ll get a DQ and we’ll move forward from that on a Sunday or Saturday whenever we race instead of a Tuesday or Wednesday.”
NASCAR expects post-race inspection to take anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours after the checkered flag to complete. This essentially means that we will know of any infractions on the day/night of the race instead of waiting until mid-week to find out.
NASCAR will also continue taking a random car back to the R&D Center to make sure they aren’t missing anything in their post-race at-track inspection process.
Last season, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 car failed inspection after wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Spring and at Texas Motor Speedway in the fall.
Under the old system, Harvick kept the two trophies and he will always have those two wins on his career record. Under the new system, that would not be the case.
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Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.