Driver meeting sets forth new ground rules
September 14, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
JOLIET, Ill. -- One week after controversy surrounded the ending of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, officials announced a series of steps aimed at deterring the “artificial” manipulation of the finishing positions of a race by a team or teams.
The changes, which involve the actions of drivers on the track as well as driver/team communications, will take effect “immediately,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said.
Helton, along with NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton, announced the moves following Saturday’s mandatory meeting with teams Saturday here at Chicagoland Speedway, site of Sunday’s Geico 400.
“At the center of that meeting was what our expectations were going forward,” France said, “… and those expectations are that a driver and a team give 100 percent effort, their best effort, to complete a race and race as hard as they possibly can.
“We addressed team rules, and … a variety of other things, all designed to do what our fans expect, and that means that their driver and their team give 100 percent to finish as high up in a given race as possible.
“We were very clear about that. That's our expectations.”
According to Helton, a technical bulletin presented to teams Saturday states that “Any competitor who takes action with the intent to artificially alter the finishing positions of the event or encourages, persuades or induces others to artificially alter the finishing position of the event shall be subject to a penalty from NASCAR.”
Such instances will be dealt with through penalties that “may include but are not limited to disqualification and/or loss of finishing points and/or fines and/or loss of points and/or suspension and/or probation to any and all members of the teams, including any beneficiaries of the prohibited actions.
" 'Artificially altered' shall be defined as actions by any competitor that show or suggest that the competitor did not race at 100 percent of their ability for the purpose of changing finishing positions in the event at NASCAR's sole discretion."
The issue of manipulating the outcome of a race came to light during last Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400. With several drivers attempting to lock up spots in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, a series of questionable events at the conclusion of the race led NASCAR officials to investigate the actions of several teams.
By Friday, Michael Waltrip Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. had lost his position in the Chase, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman had been added to the field, and two organizations -- Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports -- were placed on probation.
In perhaps the most surprising move, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Motorsports) had also been added to the Chase, creating a 13-team field for the first time since the format debuted in 2004.
Examples of actions deemed acceptable include contact while racing for position; performance issues; drafting; pitting; tire management; fuel management; yielding to a faster car; alternative pit strategy; long-fuel (mileage) strategy; and laying over (allowing others to pass) -- “you lay over for one, you lay over for all,” Helton said, “which is fairly common in our restart language.”
Unacceptable actions include, but are not limited to, offering a position in exchange for favor or material benefit; offering material benefit in exchange for track position; directing a driver to give up a position to the benefit of another driver; intentionally causing a caution; causing a caution for the benefit of or detriment of another driver; intentionally wrecking a competitor; intentionally pitting, pulling into the garage to gain advantage for another competitor.
“I want to be real clear ... this is only a working list,” Helton said. “It's only a very early list. It's not all‑inclusive. … But these are some examples, and these are the ones that we shared with the teams.”
The number of personnel allowed in the spotter’s stand, and the equipment being used there, will also be affected.
Only one official per team will now be allowed in the stand, according to Pemberton, and the team’s spotter can no longer use both analog and digital radios to communicate with his or her team -- only analog devices are allowed.
Pemberton said a video camera would be placed on the stand to allow officials to monitor actions that take place there during the course of a race.
“We will meet with drivers (Sunday) during the driver’s meeting as a little clean up,” he said. “We’re going to change some of the restart procedures from this point moving forward.”
With questions concerning the credibility of the sport surfacing in light of last week’s race, France said it was an opportunity for the sanctioning body to “reinforce … the cornerstone of NASCAR, which is giving your all. And that's the cornerstone of any sport.
“The extent that other factors got in the way of that … we want to make sure that we eliminate those factors and deal with it going forward.”
Drivers want such changes France said, adding that “they want to have clarity and they don’t … like some of the things that have gone on in the past.
“They're never pleased when we call them to a meeting,” he added. “I don't get many thank‑you notes. But I also believe that they understand what they want to get back to. It's to not worry about anything but winning races and doing your best.”