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Maybe NASCAR needs some published penalty guidelines

NASCAR’s been handing out a lot of penalties lately — some for mechanical variances from the NASCAR rule book and one or two here and there for comments made. Some of these penalties have been applauded by fans, while some have caught fans’ ire.

The jury’s still out on the lastest batch of penalties handed out since this past weekend’s racing at Kansas Speedway. In case you aren’t up to speed on those, Truck Series crew chief Joe Shear was suspended while driver Johnny Sauter and truck owner Mike Curb were docked points for an issue with the No. 98 truck’s fuel cell. Then there was the biggie — Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing car had an engine that failed post-race inspection. That engine led Kenseth to a dominating performance and the race win at Kansas.

As a result, Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, was suspended six races, while Kenseth and car owner Joe Gibbs each lost 50 points. Then here’s where the penalty gets pretty unusual — the manufacturer was docked five points and Gibbs lost his owner’s license for six races, meaning the No. 20 team won’t receive owner points for the next six races. Also, the win at Kansas won’t count when figuring bonus points or wild card spots for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As for Kenseth’s pole-winning run at Kansas? It won’t get him into next year’s Sprint Unlimited.

Anyway, those aforementioned penalties aside, NASCAR’s been on the receiving end of criticism from competitors and fans, alike, regarding its penalty inconsistencies. First, there was that fine to Denny Hamlin for giving his opinion of the new Gen-6 car.

At first, Hamlin refused to pay it and fans expressed disappointment that a driver was fined for just speaking his mind. Then, Brad Keselowski said that his Penske Racing team was being unfairly targeted and picked on when NASCAR officials had an issue with the rear ends of his and his teammate’s car a few weeks ago. The teams were penalized, but Keselowski wasn’t fined for his NASCAR-slamming comments.

That’s when a lot of fans cried, “foul.” Someone from NASCAR then stated publicly that the difference was that Hamlin criticized the product, something that’s not tolerated, while Keselowski simply criticized a NASCAR decision. Isn’t NASCAR’s decision a part of the “product?”

To me, that just seemed like an issue where NASCAR realized its mistake of fining Hamlin and chose not to make the same mistake with Keselowski. But then that whole inconsistency problem reared its head.

Staying on the topic of incosistency, the issue NASCAR had with the rear end assemblies on the Penske No. 2 and No. 22 cars were said to be similar to something different about the rear ends on the Hendrick Motorsports cars last year. Keselowski was vocal in pointing out the “fishy” rear ends on the Hendrick cars last year, but NASCAR contended that they were completely within spec. Was the Penske penalty a matter of Keselowski’s words from last year coming back to bite him on the “you know where?”

Reasoning that has been given for the Penske penalty of 2013 and the non-penalty for HMS last year is that there is much less tolerance with the Gen-6 than with the car of a year ago. But it’s still seen as an inconsistency on NASCAR’s part.

I normally wouldn’t call for the NASCAR rule book to be made any bigger or any more complicated, but maybe there should be a section added — one that could even be up for review and revision prior to the start of each season — that gives a basic outline for specific penalties for certain kinds of rules violations for each series. It wouldn’t have to be incredibly specific, mentioning every part and piece of the car.

This outline could define certain penalties for illegal or unapproved parts within certain areas of the car/truck and include variables like when the illegal or unapproved parts were found (i.e. — opening day inspection, post-race, etc.), and whether or not it gave the team an unfair advantage.

If something like this could be done, and that policy is enforced, it may go a long way in ending the confusion and inconsistency claims.

Just a thought.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (AutoRcngDaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner

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Posted by on April 24, 2013. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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