Vito Pugliese · Tuesday April 3, 2007
Editor’s Note : What you’re reading is the first edition to what our website hopes will become one of the more important columns out there – NASCAR Rules. Posted each Wednesday, the article looks to dissect a different rule out of the NASCAR book (it actually does exist) and discuss its importance within the general context of the previous weekend’s race. Hope you enjoy it!
The NASCAR Rule Book. It's right up there with The Dead Sea Scrolls and The Constitution as documents that are often quoted… but rarely seen in person. NASCAR isindeed very particular in regards to who obtains a copy of their rulebook, and does not make them available for sale to the public. Having followed NASCAR for over twenty years, I was always under the impression that the rulebook was really just a pamphlet that contained these two phrases: "Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing,” and “Except in rare instances.” No one could buy a copy, you see, and those were the only two rules that were ever mentioned being consistently enforced.
Well, I am happy to tell you that this is most defiantly NOT the case. As much grief as NASCAR gets in the press for making up the rules as they go along and for degenerating into professional wrestling, there most certainly is a very detailed rulebook that is published annually. It is as comprehensive and detailed as any sanctioning body for any sport, and as in-depth as any manual your human resources department might have on hand. We here at Frontstretch.com have obtained a copy of this year's rulebook, and will be highlighting certain rules and sections throughout the season. For our first installment, we will profile the most familiar rule, the one usually cited when someone is found to be pushing the rules a little too far, blatantly cheating, or for other more serious infractions. It’s the infamous Section 12-4: General Scope of Penalties.
This is the rule we see quite frequently in the press. If someone is found to be too low in post-race inspection, using unapproved parts, or in Michael Waltrip's caseâ€¦.well, I guess we really don't know what he did other than someone doing something to introduce an unknown substance into his fuel system. Regardless, the rule being bent in that case was 12-4.
Section A is the part that sums up most all infractions, one that contains the most popular phrase, “actions detrimental to stockcar racing.” One might argue that applying a surfboard to the nose of the car or affixing a wing to the decklid is detrimental to stockcar racing, but in this instance, it is referring to actions taken to circumvent the rules to gain a performance advantage; anything tarnishing NASCAR’s image as a clean family sport. This could be something as simple as the quarterpanel height being too low, a result of there not being a template or rule governing a specific area of the car. It could also mean a concerted effort of the team to get the car through prerace inspection has the car perfectly legal at that point in time, but then it falls below the specified height once the race begins. Depending on the severity of the infraction or the intent, NASCAR determines whether to make a monetary fine, or to take money as well as championship points. In extreme cases, it can mean suspension from competition. This section can be – and often is – applied in addition to a specific infraction.
The other sections aren’t used quite as much. Sections B and C refer to abuse of NASCAR privileges and licenses, issuing a permit or clearance to someone without NASCAR's approval. It also pertains to providing false information to the sanctioning body while applying for a license or permit.
Section D, on the other hand, helps to protect the referees of our sport. It strictly prohibits any physical action taken towards NASCAR officials or those under their direction. You might disagree with the official who says your tire is on the pit box line, but you can't abuse him verbally or physically. NASCAR is no different than the NBA, NFL, or MLB in this regard; luckily, you never hear about this rule because NASCAR do.
Section E is one that we used to hear nothing about, either; in recent years, though, it’s reared its ugly head with two high-profile drivers having removed from competition for not complying with NASCAR's substance abuse policy. It's one thing to enjoy a Budweiser or a Miller Lite with the team following an event, but NASCAR is just like any other employer that takes a dim view of its people partaking in alcohol or drug abuse. In an arena where you are controlling a 3400 lb vehicle at speeds in excess of 200 mph with poor peripheral vision, the ability to focus on your job becomes kind of important. Steve Hmiel and Brian Rose are two men that know better after being suspended indefinitely under this rule.
Sections F and G of rule 12-4 apply to the competitors and team members fighting. This is a sport that has action taking place in an extreme environment, so of course, there is the occasional squabble, verbal confrontation, or Jeff Gordon trying to start something with his safety equipment intact…but this is used more or less to keep things from getting out of hand. Thankfully, the days of guys walking through the pits with an axle looking to settle a score, only to be met with a .38 Special pulled from the toolbox are over. This is auto racing, not Thunderdrome…but things still will occasionally mill over into a little brouhaha. In 2003 at Richmond, things got out of hand between Ricky Rudd's crew and Kevin Harvicks team following a late race restart in which Harvick bumped Rudd out of the way. There was a brief melee in the pits, and a few team members from the No. 29 were suspended and put on probation as a result of this section.
Section H is related to proper registration for an event or obligations related to that. As with most items, this can be reprimanded with a fine of probation, money, points, or outright disqualification.
Section I is a violation we often hear about, but never referenced as Section I. This has to do with attendance to the driver / crew chief meeting, as well as driver introductions. We all have seen over the years when drivers such as Tony Stewart or John Andretti would attempt to run both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. They would get to the track in time for the race, but they would miss the driver’s meeting. Normally the penalty for this infraction just means that the driver or crew chief in question abdicate their qualifying position and start at the back of the pack.
Section J refers to the drivers and crew chiefs and their responsibility for making sure that only licensed and credentialed drivers are allowed in their cars on the racetrack. NASCAR officials must be notified if a change to their licenses has occurred at any time.
Finally, sections K through W are the meat of the rule, dealing specifically with the inspection processes and the spirit of stockcar racing.
Here’s a sneak peek at Section K.
When NASCAR Officials mandate inspection during the Event, if any car, car parts, components and/or equipment which have been used in the event are taken from the racing premises without permission of a NASCAR official, or are tampered with by any member of the team, or by anyone associated with the team; a fine and/or disqualification and/or loss of Championship points and/or loss of finishing position(s) in the Event, and/or probation, and/or suspension (will result), unless the Competitor proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the violation was caused by circumstances which the Competitor could not control.
So, Jeff Gordon may be mad at Jimmie Johnson…but I wouldn’t recommend stealing his carburetor and leaving the track with it anytime soon to get revenge!
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