CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR took a monumental step Monday when officials announced that going forward, infractions uncovered during post-race technical inspections will now lead to an immediate disqualification of the car involved.
For the first time in decades, a winning entry could be stripped of a victory.
“The bottom line is that car will be disqualified,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said during a media briefing at the sanctioning body’s research and development center.
“Everything that goes with a win goes away. We’ll obviously inspect second-place and a random. Second place (if cleared) will receive all of the benefits of winning that race. Playoff bonus (point), everything will go with that.”
O’Donnell called it a change in the NASCAR culture.
“And that comes with a lot of challenges,” he said. “We’ve tried to do it one way and it hasn’t worked. …”
“We have also heard loud and clear from our race fans … (complaints about) Tuesday post-race penalties, Wednesday post-race penalties, the storyline dragging out. …
“I share those same feelings, I think all of us at the R&D share those same feelings. The objective for us was always, candidly, not to have those. … Unfortunately, we went down a path where that became a storyline.”
Officials have wrestled with how to handle the issue of cars failing post-race technical inspection for years. They haven’t taken a victory away from a “winning” entry in one of the three major series since 1995 and that was in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the sanctioning body’s top division, a race winner hasn’t been stripped of victory due to a technical infraction since the early ‘60s. (There have been rare instances of drivers losing a win for non-technical issues.)
O’Donnell said post-race inspection, which previously consisted of on-site checks as well as a more intensive tear-down at the R&D Center two or more days after the race, will now be completed at the track following the event.
“We expect it to be about 90 minutes at the track” O’Donnell explained, after which time the winner will be declared official. Should a winning entry be disqualified, the team has the ability to appeal.
“If that does happen, it will be an expedited appeal that will take place at the latest Wednesday,” he said. “When we leave the race track Sunday night, we’ll know who the winner is from our perspective.
“We understand the challenges … but we’ve also made it very clear to the teams over the last six months that this is where we’re headed. Bring your stuff right. Let’s concentrate on the best drivers in the world going out there and beating each other on the track versus the wind tunnel. And we think this is going to do that.”
Engines will still be subjected to inspection at the R&D Center as well as randomly chosen cars from time to time.
Previously, any failure during post-race inspections, whether at the track or later at the Research and Development Center, would likely result in a fine, suspension of a crewmember (crew chief and/or car chief) and a loss of points.
The process has continued to evolve. Infractions were given different levels (L1, L2 and L3) based on severity. Wins became “encumbered,” meaning any benefits such as points or having the win qualify the driver for the playoffs were taken away.
Now, officials have made it simple.
According to Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, “all of the owners and all of the teams are tired of the same thing that we’re tired of and that’s playing all these games.
“And the only way to stop these games is what we’re doing.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season officially opens Feb. 17 with the 61st running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.