JOLIET, Ill. Faced with a week-long crisis over its integrity, NASCAR unveiled Saturday a new set of rules it hopes will restore some of the trust lost by its fans and even some participants.
All of the rules, presented to drivers, crew chiefs and car owners for the first time in a closed-door meeting at Chicagoland Speedway, take effect beginning with Sunday’s GEICO 400, the first of 10 races which will decide the champion of the Sprint Cup Series.
Some – including changes to NASCAR’s restart policy – won’t be unveiled until Sunday’s prerace drivers’ meeting.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France said there was one overriding philosophy behind all of them.
“At the center of that meeting was what our expectations were going forward, 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.,” France said.
“We addressed team rules, and a variety of other things, all designed to do what our fans expect, and that means that they’re driver and their team give 100 percent to finish as high up in a given race as possible.”
A new rule has been immediately added to the NASCAR rulebook and reads in part, “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.”
NASCAR President Mike Helton offered several examples of actions NASCAR considers unacceptable going forward.
They include: Offering a position on the track in exchange for favor or material benefit and vice versa; directing a driver to give up a position to the benefit of another driver; intentionally causing a caution; intentionally wrecking a competitor; and intentionally pitting to gain an advantage for another competitor.
Some of the items are already prohibited by NASCAR but were being spelled out in greater specifics. Helton, however, insisted the list was not “all inclusive.”
“This is only a working list. It's only a very early list,” Helton said. “As Brian mentioned, this is day one of this phase of NASCAR and its responsibility to the fans and to the industry of regulating the sport around this topic.”
It’s a topic that has dominated the headlines in motorsports just as NASCAR begins the process of crowning its newest series champion.
Two separate investigations in the past week by NASCAR of teams’ manipulation of the outcome of last Saturday night’s race at Richmond, Va. – which set the field for the 10-race Chase – have resulted in two additions in the Chase lineup.
As a result of penalties assessed to the Michael Waltrip Racing organization on Monday, MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. was dropped out of the Chase and Ryan Newman added.
Then on Friday, France – on his own authority – added driver Jeff Gordon as an unprecedented 13th member of the Chase in part because, “there were too many that altered the event and have an unfair advantage to Jeff and his team, who would have qualified.”
Lost largely in the discussion over the Chase implications was that Richmond race winner Carl Edwards appeared to jump the final restart of the race with three laps remaining.
In addition to the list of prohibited actions spelled out by Helton, NASCAR issued other changes to prevent more instances of team orders.
All digital communications between team spotters and crews is banned. All communications with drivers as well as spotter must now be analog, which allows them to be heard by the public. Only spotters will be allowed on the spotter stands and each team will be allowed only one spotter for each spotter stand a track provides.
Also, NASCAR will install a camera on each spotter stand which it will it monitor from race control at every event.
“I think we wanted it to be very clear, and we wanted to reinforce the cornerstone of NASCAR, which is giving your all,” France said. “The extent that other factors got in the way of that, we want to eliminate those factors and deal with it going forward.”
Most of the meetings’ participants elected not to comment, although several said France was visibly irritated the issue had spiraled out of control since last Saturday night.
“I think everyone should have a pretty clear understanding of what that (line) is now,” said Paul Wolfe, crew chief for reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski.
“If you go out there and run 100 percent to your ability and run a normal race, then everything will be fine.”