Justice will be served in NASCAR this season.
At first read, that might sound a little absurd in the context of a sporting event. But when it comes to violators in NASCAR no longer keeping the spoils of a victory, it seems an appropriate summation. If you need another, the following statement from NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell should be perfectly clear:
“If you are illegal, you don’t win the race,” the executive vice president of competition and racing development said.
Officials announced Monday they would start disqualifying race-winning teams that fail post-race inspection due to major violations. It is the next step in hopes of stopping what had become a significant week-to-week conversation not centered on the racing.
No more mid-week penalties. So long to debating whether a win is tainted, and if an asterisk should appear in the record books. We have officially killed off the word ‘encumbered’ and taken back our Tuesdays and Wednesdays by not having to sit around waiting for a penalty report that rarely had substantial consequences. No more columns, like this one, calling for NASCAR to be stronger and to clean up the inspection mess.
Beginning this year, penalties will matter and will be as clear as ever. A car is going to pass inspection with the team taking home the trophy, the points and the pride of winning right, or it is going to fail and be remembered as having crossed the finish line first but left with nothing to show for it. Zip. Zilch. Nada. OK, they will get one measly point for finishing last. Enjoy!
Amen. Halleluiah. It’s about time. Can I get a hell yeah?
NASCAR had long-stated that fans should leave the racetrack knowing who won the race. It was why officials had been hesitant to take wins away the past few decades. In the Cup Series, a victory been stripped because of a rulebook violation since the 1960s.
But with rampant inspection issues and conversations about the integrity of race wins continually mounting, NASCAR’s frustrations, along those of the rest of us, had reached a point on Monday where they finally admitted that what they were doing wasn’t working. So, disqualifications were the only next logical step.
Officials are looking at a 90-minute post-race inspection process to occur for the first, second and a randomly selected car. Expect that random car to often be the third-place finisher, so that if the top two cars fail like Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney did last fall in Texas, next in line is declared the winner. All three national series will operate under this new policy.
“Inspection is going to be open all the time,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “With the inspectors in the garage, we will be inspecting cars all the time. It won’t be just during the official inspections. When we find something wrong—and it’s been in the rule book, but we’re going to use it this year—if you bring illegal parts, and we make you take them off, you’re going to be issued an L1 penalty right there at the race track.
“We have to stop this. We tried to do it a little softer, but it didn’t work, so we’re going to try a new approach. You can’t unload your car with illegal stuff on it – period.”
Show up legal or don’t bother showing up at all. Being disqualified from the race win wipes everything away anyway, as if that driver and team weren’t even there. No more, “X driver won the race but will not keep the benefits of it” in the news cycle. It was a ridiculous notion to begin with and had to have made NASCAR look pathetic to outsiders.
Did “insert driver here” win at Daytona or Atlanta or Las Vegas? Yes, he did. Or no he didn’t because his car wasn’t legal. It’s easy to understand. It’s the basic form of competition. It’s the rule we should have had all along, but better late than never. Punishment like this is worth it.