NASCAR specifies driver behavior punishment with rules update

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR announced several changes to its behavior policy that will include actions on and off the track and specific penalties for such violations.

Among the changes:

  • Penalizing a driver 50-100 points and/or $150,000-$250,000 fine and/or two-race suspension for “premeditatedly removing another competitor from championship contention in a dangerous manner when not racing for position based on the available evidence and specific circumstances of the incident.
  • A fine and/or indefinite suspension or termination  for “public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based on that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age or handicapping condition.”
  • NASCAR members could face a fine and/or indefinite suspension or termination after being charged with or convicted of significant criminal violations (e.g. Domestic Violence, Trafficking, Assault), or having had determinations rendered by criminal or civil authorities that in NASCAR’s judgment necessitate action. NASCAR will not pre-judge guilt or innocence in the criminal or civil legal system, or the guilt or innocence of the Member, but rather review each matter in its own context and circumstances and with regards to its potential effects upon the sport.”
  • NASCAR members would lose 25-50 points and/or fined $50,000-$100,000 fine and/or one race suspension, indefinite suspension or termination for physical confrontation with a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc., member-to-member confrontations with physical violence and other violent manifestations such as significant threat(s) and/or abuse and/or endangerment, attempting to manipulate the outcome of a race or championship and intentionally wrecking another vehicle.”

Among the factors NASCAR may consider when reviewing a matter would include: When and where the incident occurred, the perceivable or potential ramifications to others and/or to the sport, member’s past history, possible effects to fans, safety, workers, crew members.

All NASCAR members in the sport’s national series are subject to these rules, whether driver, team owner, crew member or other. The penalties are appealable.

Jim Cassidy, senior vice president, racing operations, said the penalties for intentionally wrecking a competitor is meant to make the rule precise.

“To be clear, this is not an effort to change the way the drivers race today,’’ he said. “NASCAR is an aggressive sport. We understand that drivers are going to be aggressive to race for position.

“That is not going to change. That’s a very significant point. It’s spelled out in the rule and we understand that. We also understand that there are points in time when competitors can cross the line and they should have a better understanding of what exactly may transpire if it’s determined they cross the line.’’

One of Matt Kenseth’s complaints last year about being suspended two races for wrecking Joey Logano during last year’s Chase was that there was not precedent for NASCAR to suspend him for such action, noting officials did not do so to Jeff Gordon in 2012 when he wrecked Clint Bowyer during a Chase race at Phoenix.

The updated policy doesn’t change what NASCAR would do in a situation similar to last year with Kurt Busch but makes it clear.

NASCAR indefinitely suspended Busch last year after a Delaware Family Court Commissioner concluded that “it is more likely than not” that Busch committed an act of domestic abuse against his ex-girlfriend. NASCAR lifted the suspension shortly after the Delaware Department of Justice announced it would not seek charges and Busch completed requirements set by NASCAR.

Also included is how NASCAR will react to negative comments directed toward NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and the series.

“That’s not new,’’ Cassidy said. “We’ve been pretty clear as it relates to taking on the sport versus taking on a call and so what you’ll see that is also part of it. You’ll also see part of it taking on media members, taking on fans, taking on partners. It’s an effort to state entirely what we expect of our members.’’

Cassidy said the changes are intended to better define penalties.

“I would say it’s not do as you see fit,” he said. “Far from do as you see fit. The problem was we didn’t spell it out as clearly as we could. I think the perception might have been do as you see fit. But there’s been a whole lot of thought, process that went into it.

“We don’t want perception that anything is do as you see fit. We are so far from that today as a sport. It’s a good thing for us. It’s a good thing for our competitiors and everyone involved and the fans to understand what’s happening.”

Cassidy said there will remain room for competitors to not agree with each other and avoid a penalty. NASCAR did not penalize Kevin Harvick after he shoved Jimmie Johnson in the motorhome lot after the opening Chase race last year at Chicagoland Speedway.

“You’ll see that spelled out at the beginning, situations like that,” Cassidy said. “There are heat-of-the moment situations that we think … will be situations where competitors work things out themselves and we need not get involved. When we do get involved it could be a conversation, it could be a warning, it could be probation. But in situations where it is that, then you’re probably going to look for us to have the competitors work it out themselves or have us intervene and help them work it out together.”