Joey Logano won last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, but in terms of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship battle, you’d barely know it.
That’s because Thursday (May 4), Logano’s No. 22 was announced to have had a rear suspension violation found at NASCAR’s R&D center following the race, which means a few things for the Team Penske organization. There’s a $50,000 fine involved, as well as the loss of 25 points in both the driver and owner point standings, and crew chief Todd Gordon is suspended for two races.
Oh, but again, he keeps the win. It’s just that it doesn’t mean anything more than another win on Logano’s overall stat sheet. He’s unable to use the victory as a ticket into the playoffs and the five playoff points accrued due to the win can’t be used in any capacity.
A win’s a win, though. Encumbered, that’s what they’re calling it.
Which is something we’ve been expecting for a little over half a year at this point. Last September, the word first entered the NASCAR lexicon to describe finishes wherein affected drivers had some sort of post-race infraction that would require, per NASCAR’s rule book, a major penalty, like failure of the laser inspection system or missing three or more lug nuts.
We’re talking something that Scott Miller, senior vp of competition at NASCAR, said at the time would have to be, “egregious, it will be deliberate, it won’t be an accident.” Something that, for instance, doesn’t just fail the laser inspection platform after the race. It’s not even in the same ballpark.
Logano’s where we see the portion about wins come into play. With encumbered wins, yes, drivers get to keep the victory (Logano’s 18th in Cup competition, if you’re keeping score at home). But NASCAR has deemed the team’s rules issue so hefty that it doesn’t count whatsoever beyond that. Heck, even now there are probably people crafting a petition to add an asterisk in the record books or something.
That just may beg the question: why not go all the way and strip Logano entirely?
Well, the very query opens up a whole can of worms on whether or not you believe NASCAR should ever remove a victory in the Cup Series post-finish. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. That’s a debate for another day and is one you’ve probably already had with someone else, perhaps even this week.
But even if you think NASCAR should consider removing a win from the record book, it may not be that easy. It’s not like that tends to happen in other sports, after all (with occasional exceptions, but rare, very rare), and doing so in NASCAR competition would be a little tough, too. It’s something that hasn’t been done since 1955 (Fireball Roberts, who had an illegal engine), and suddenly demolishing that precedent would be quite the shock indeed.
Because think about it this way: let’s say a driver fails post-race inspection with this or that infraction. With said infraction, NASCAR isn’t necessarily saying that the car’s illegality gave it the win, just that it didn’t fit the criteria established. Who’s to say Logano wouldn’t have won even if his car was squeaky clean? And what if some other factor possibly led to the car being deemed illegal, such as errant race contact? Or so the team says, of course.
Plus, imagine all the ramifications in an age of social media and when sponsors are perhaps more important than ever before. Picture NASCAR announcing on a Thursday that that win that a driver had, one that’s already been celebrated, shared on social media, possibly even marketed around is suddenly no longer a thing.
Judgment calls like that? Iffy. So, NASCAR has decreed, it’s best to go purely by something it can define, which is whether or not a car is legal at the time it passes officials’ eyes.
Though it’s interesting: the fact that encumbered finishes even exist at all in our NASCAR vocabulary does almost feel like a step toward possibly stripping finishes in the future. I mean, disallowing a win in the eyes of the playoff hunt is already a fairly tall order, and if this weren’t the eighth race of the season, Logano and co. would probably be appealing the heck out of it if he remained winless just before the playoffs.
NASCAR’s top brass said last year that it hadn’t seen the kind of infraction yet that season that justified an encumbered finish. Now it has, and we’ve seen what comes of it.
Not pretty either way.
But hey, Joey Logano remains a winner.
About the author
Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.
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