NASCAR hopes to come out clean of the credibility issue that it has suddenly found itself in. In a closed-door meeting held in the presence of drivers and team executives last Saturday, NASCAR aimed to clearly definite what exactly are allowed and not allowed during a race. Following the fallout from last week’s controversial finish at Richmond International Raceway, the meeting hopes to give everyone a better idea of what’s legal in terms of providing assistance to another car during a race. This is just in time for the scheduled playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.
The rule is explicit in saying that drivers have to race 100% and should never mess with the finish. The controversy started when the finish was messed with about a week ago. Clint Bowyer figured in a suspicious spin with seven more laps to go; this triggered a series of events that greatly compromised NASCAR’s public image. MWR Racing teammates, Bowyer and Vickers, were found to have gotten instructions from the team to give up spots in favor of another driver, Penske Racing’s Joey Logano, in the hope of making it to the top 10 of the standings. As a result, Logano didn’t have to use a wild card entry for the Chase giving Martin Truex Jr., an MWR driver, the entry instead.
When NASCAR conducted an investigation, the in-race radio chatter and video showed MWR caused the fix. And for the first time in the sport’s history, the biggest penalty was imposed by NASCAR. MWR was ruled to pay a huge fine of $300,000. On top of that, the three MWR drivers who figured in the controversy were docked 50 points, the team’s general manager was placed into indefinite suspension, and Martin Truex Jr. was removed in favor of Ryan Newman.
Eventually, more questionable radio chatter was discovered between Penske and Front Row Motorsports. This time around, NASCAR sided with the unfortunate victim of the trickery and surprisingly gave Jeff Gordon the 13th spot in the Chase. Moreover, to ensure that such events are prevented from happening again during the Chase, NASCAR immediately effected several rulebook changes and released its technical bulletin to the teams. These changes include:
- Drivers are to race “at 100% of their ability with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in an event.” Clearly, this addresses the issues about illegal deals, changing of positions in favor of another teammate, or “artificially altering” the game finish – these things will no longer be tolerated. Drivers or teams will be accordingly penalized if proven guilty of the said violations.
- Digital radios are now prohibited on the spotters’ stand.
- Only one spotter per car will be allowed to be present on the spotters’ stand. NASCAR will enforce this rule strictly with the use of surveillance camera on every roof.
All other changes to NASCAR’s restart rules will be announced during Sunday’s pre-race drivers’ meeting.