DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After a series of post-race technical violations on winning race cars last season, NASCAR officials announced Monday a change in policy for the upcoming year across all three national series.
No longer will a driver whose car fails post-race technical inspection following a race be credited as the winner. Instead, if the winning car fails post-race inspection, the win will be taken away and all benefits from the race – including points, stage points, finishing position and prize money – will be stripped.
“We’re changing the culture,” NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said on Monday. “We’ve tried to do one way and it hasn’t worked.”
In a huge turn of course from its recent history, NASCAR will do away with its traditional policy of conducting post-race teardown during the middle of the following week at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., in favor of an accelerated inspection process that will now be conducted at the race track following an event.
Both the first- and second-place vehicles, as well as an additional random vehicle, will be inspected at the race track under the new procedure. If one of those entries is found illegal and fails post-race inspection, it will be disqualified and earn a last-place finishing position.
All other vehicles in the running order would move up under that scenario, both in the final rundown and in the finishes of the first two stages of the race, as well.
The new procedure is anticipated to take anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours to complete after the conclusion of a race event, and is in effect for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
“Our industry understands the need to focus on what happens on the race track,” said O’Donnell. “We cannot allow inspection and penalties to continue to be a prolonged storyline. Race vehicles are expected to adhere to the rule book from the opening of the garage to the checkered flag.”
Previously, offending race winners or other top finishers were hit with points penalties, fines and/or suspensions, but the race win was allowed to stand.
This year’s shift in rules marks a break from that longstanding, unwritten policy.
“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,” noted O’Donnell. “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 (and after) the race.”
“Times have changed. We’ve moved forward with a lot of things,” said Jay Fabian, the new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series managing director. “There’s always been different thoughts on what the right way is to do it. … We want to be able to avoid the Tuesday, Wednesday announcements of penalties. We want to take that story line away and we’ve got to be rid of all that. It’s up to the teams to behave the right way and if they don’t, they’ll get a DQ and we’ve move forward from that on a Sunday or Saturday – whenever we race – instead of a Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Last season, five different penalties were assessed during the first three months of the season for rear-window violations. Later, during the playoffs, Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing copped a penalty for an illegal spoiler after winning at Texas Motor Speedway.
NASCAR does have instances in its history where drivers were disqualified, however.
In fact, the premise goes all the way back to the inaugural premier series race in 1949, when Glenn Dunaway crossed the finish line first at the old Charlotte Speedway but was later disqualified for illegal springs, elevating Jim Roper to the victory.
The most recent instance of a race winner being disqualified at NASCAR’s top level was on April 17, 1960, at Wilson (N.C.) Speedway, where Emanuel Zervakis was relegated to last in the finishing order for an oversized fuel tank. Joe Weatherly earned the win that day.
Meanwhile, the last disqualification in NASCAR history to this point was in 1973 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, when team owner Nord Krauskopf refused to allow NASCAR officials to inspect his car after he ordered driver Buddy Baker to park his No. 71 Dodge.