News & Media


Penalty structure to become more defined

July 15, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

Robin Pemberton Gene Stefanyshyn Steve O'Donnell

Simplified rule book with increased objectivity, consistency the goal

CONCORD, N.C. -- One day soon, when teams are caught with a modified rear-end housing or a connecting rod lighter than the minimum allowable weight, they won’t have to wait days to find out what the penalties might be -- they’ll be able to look them up in the rule book.

One facet of the planned modernization of NASCAR’s competition department announced Monday is a penalty structure, which will end the somewhat subjective process in place now. Eventually, a revised rule book will spell out the potential penalties for each infraction -- and any appeals would be heard by industry experts with more expertise in the areas in question.

FOUR KEY AREAS

Governance
Move rule-making from Officiating to R&D / Innovation
Enhance effectiveness of appeals process by redefining process and appeals board member criteria

Rules
Simplify rule book and increase objectivity by replacing written rules with CAD designs
Enhance parts approval by formalizing submission and approval process
Increase consistency of rule interpretation across National Series

Penalty/Deterrence
Strengthen deterrence model to reduce inspection required to ensure competitive racing

Officiating / Inspection
Increase use of technology on pit road
Maintain rigor of inspection while creating greater efficiency in the entire process
Improve efficiency of process by creating race team inspection scheduling system
Enhance effectiveness of inspection through data collection and trend analysis
Create unified inspecting and officiating model across National Series

A more defined penalty structure, and an appeals process more relatable to each offense, were among a number of initiatives NASCAR plans to implement in its competition department before the Daytona 500 in 2015. In the future, the mystery will be removed from the equation -- look up the offense in the rule book, and you’ll also find the applicable penalty.

It’s all part of a movement in which the rule book will also be revised and made available to teams in real-time electronic form, one more compatible with the computer-aided design (CAD) tools employed in many race shops today.

“NASCAR has been criticized sometimes for being somewhat subjective. And when we look at the rule book in the future, we want to categorize penalties so they’re listed out in the rule book. So when you look at parts that are approved, when you look at CAD drawings, the next step for us is for teams to clearly understand what’s right and what’s wrong,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president for racing operations, said at the NASCAR Research and Development Center.

“You’re going to see in the rule book, X penalty or X infraction equals X penalty. Therefore, when you look at the part, you look at the CAD drawing, you look at the potential penalty, and ultimately, you look at the appeals process,” O’Donnell said. “… it will be much more clearly defined, not only for us and our competitors, but also for the race fans as well. Ultimately, all this we’re looking at is to make it more clear. We still want our teams to innovate. That’s not something we’re going away from. But we just want to paint a clearer picture.”

Now, penalties are not typically announced until days after the violation has occurred. And while there is some loose structure to their severity -- anything involving tires, fuel or engines is usually treated harshest -- the penalties are not defined on paper. O’Donnell said that that will change, although just what penalty equates to what offense is still being determined.

“We're still working on it, but … our initial thoughts are to break it down into categories,” he said. “Maybe one through five, one through six have certain levels, some obviously that you see that are day‑to‑day. If you go back and look at our history, there's some pretty standard ones that people expect, so that's just really formalizing that.

“Others that you've seen, you mess with engines, you mess with tires, those are the big ones, and so we're going to lay that out more specifically to the race teams so they know. So we'll list those out in the rule book so everyone can see if you do X, here's the penalty or here's the fine or potentially the points.  We’re still working through that, and that's what we're going to the teams with. They like the transparency, it's just how we categorize those, and that's what we're working through right now."

The appeals process also will change. At present the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Commission has a pool of 48 voting members from all areas of the industry, and any three are chosen to hear a given appeal. The appeal members are not always chosen by areas of expertise, leading to situations where members like track promoters have heard appeals regarding issues like engine offenses. Going forward, that won’t be the case.

“I think we’ve put some people in some tough positions with the emerging technologies and all the science behind our parts and pieces in the car. We owe it to the industry to have industry experts sit in on that and make proper rulings,” O’Donnell said.

“… we’ve got the most independent process in all of sports. We’re proud of the fact that that’s in place. We thought it was a very fair process, but as with anything, you can always improve on it. … When you look at track promoters who maybe need to work with a race team or a race owner or a team owner … and you're asking them to come in and make a rule on a carburetor or EFI or something new that they have never heard about, and they're not experts in that, it puts them in a tough position,” he added.

“… that's one area we really felt like we could bring in people who have a better understanding of the emerging technology that's in the race cars.”

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