Long: NASCAR makes decision worth celebrating

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About time.

The notion that a winner could fail inspection after a race and still be credited with the victory was ridiculous. That such penalties often weren’t announced until a few days after the race dragged down the sport.

NASCAR finally did the right thing Monday, stating that  it will disqualify the winning vehicle if it fails inspection after the race at the track. This is for Cup, Xfinity and the Truck series. 

It’s simple now.

Do not pass inspection … do not collect your race-winning check and trophy.

“Bring your cars right,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said of the message to teams. “We are not going to take 24 hours to inspect 40 cars postrace. Get it right.”

Two special areas will be with lug nuts and engines. A team can have up to two lug nuts not secured and still keep the win.

Because teams use sealed engines for two races, it’s possible a race-winning engine could be on its first race and not be inspected at the R&D Center until it is run a second time. Should a violation be found after an engine is run a second time, there will not be a disqualification because NASCAR does not want to alter the results from a race weeks or months earlier with that engine. Instead, NASCAR will issue an L2 penalty (75 points, six-race suspension of crew chief or other team members and fine between $100,000 – $200,000 and finish will not count toward playoff eligibility or determining the champion in final race) and apply it to both races. 

Other than that, series officials said a violation found in inspection after the race will lead to that car being disqualified. (Teams will have the chance to appeal and that will be heard by Wednesday after the race.)

So, if a winning car doesn’t pass the ground clearance measurements after the race, it is disqualified. If the splitter does not meet the rules after the race, the winning car is disqualified. If there is a violation with the rear window that is found after the race, the winning car is disqualified.

You get the point.

NASCAR will drop a disqualified car to last in the results, take away any stage points it scored and withhold the money it would have earned for the win. The victory will not count toward playoff participation or advancement to the next round. 

NASCAR also stated that the winning driver of a disqualified car will not have that victory count toward their career record.

It will be as if the win never happened for that car and driver.

As it should.

Finally.

The runner-up car also will be inspected after the race. In a case where the winning car fails inspection, the runner-up will be declared the winner provided it passes inspection.

NASCAR also will take a random car for inspection after the race and series officials conceded it often could be the third-place car in case the top two fail. Last year’s Texas playoff race had the top two finishers fail inspection after the race — winner Kevin Harvick and runner-up Ryan Blaney.

Monday’s announce will impacts other areas. NASCAR estimated it would take more than 90 minutes after the race before a winner could be declared.

That’s for every race. So the winner of the Daytona 500 could change well after the confetti falls on their celebration in Victory Lane, photos are taken and interviews complete.

Yes, that will be awkward but it will be better than having a team keep a victory with a car that doesn’t pass inspection. Getting it right matters. 

Even with NASCAR ratcheting penalties last season to winners, the record book still listed those drivers as the victors. Monday’s announcement won’t mean rewriting the record book for those who won races with illegal cars, but it’s a start and a direction NASCAR needs to go.

Another key impact with this ruling could be on the postrace celebrations.

Cars have blown out wheels and damaged parts of the body with crowd-pleasing burnouts.

So what happens with this?

“We’re in show business,” Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “Fans like burnouts. It’s a hard decision to make, and I don’t think we’ve actually landed on whether or not we’re going to say they can’t do that. But let’s just say that, at the very least, if there are habitual offenders of that, that’s not going to be OK.”

That issue might be a bit muddy but the the fact that NASCAR is willing to disqualify a winning car and remove it from the record books is something that needed to be done. A long time ago.

Now on to the next issue in the sport …