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NASCAR needs to be clearer on rule enforcement

NASCAR has been on the defensive the last few days since Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team’s non-penalty for servicing the car outside its pit box during Sunday’s Bank of America 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. During a yellow-flag pit stop on lap 280.

To refresh your memory. Johnson pulled part of the way out of his pit box when he was told by crew chief Chad Knaus to stop. Johnson back part of the way back into his box, but not completely, and a lug nut was replaced or tightened on the car. Even though Johnson’s car was part of the way outside the box, he did not receive the normal penalty of a lap for pitting outside his box.

Am I accusing NASCAR of favoritism or missing a call? No. Still, though, some of the reasoning NASCAR has given for the no-call hasn’t sat well with me the last few days.

Long story short, the reasoning NASCAR has given in defense of the no-call includes the tightening of the lug nut being the remedying of a safety issue, the situation was called the same way it has all year, and the loss of time for having to go back and tighten the lug nut was penalty enough. Actually, NASCAR says it’s been calling the rule the same way the last couple of years. Really?!?

First, of all, If NASCAR’s been making the same call in similar situations all season, why are we just now noticing it? Sunday’s race was the 30th race of the season, after all. And if that rule has been called the same way for a couple of seasons, that’s 66 races, going back to the start of the 2016 season.

Also, there’s the whole idea of the No. 48 team penalizing itself with the time lost going back and tightening the lug nut. Sure, Johnson and company lost some time, but the normal penalty is a lap. Johnson didn’t go a lap down, as a result, so the penalty wasn’t of the normal severity. Instead, he dropped from fourth to 15th before eventually finishing seventh.

I think the following statement from NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio is what bothered me most about this whole situation:

“We didn’t call it, so obviously, they got the information. I don’t know that every single team up and down pit road knows that’s the way we’ve been calling it. There’s a lot of subtleties up and down pit road, and if we tried to communicate everything that we discuss in every one of our meetings about pit road officiating, it would, probably, inundate the teams with information, and they probably end up more confused than they are now. Does everybody know that’s the way we’ve been calling it? Potentially not.”

Miller may not have meant it this way, but this is what I took from his aforementioned statement: we don’t want to bother teams with too much info. on rules, so we’ll just call it this way, and they’ll eventually figure out. Is that, really, the way rules of the sport should be approached? I don’t think so.

I get that NASCAR can’t anticipate every question about and interpretation of the rule, but if the rule’s really been called this way for a couple of years, I would think the issue would’ve come up in a drivers’ meeting by now.

Miller also defended NASCAR by claiming that, obviously, some teams knew the rule, that the No. 48 team knew, because Johnson didn’t back all the way back into his pit box. Ummm, I’m not so sure about that one. My guess is the No. 48 team is just glad it wasn’t slapped with a penalty and went the “I knew we did nothing wrong” route to support NASCAR in not issuing a penalty. After all, if the No. 48 team knew it could tighten that lug nut with the car part of the way outside its box, why did Knaus have Johnson back up at all?

I realize Knaus is a smart crew chief, but the fact that he seemed to be the only crew chief who completely understood the rule at Charlotte doesn’t wash with me.

Also, I’m hearing that after a similar incident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, after missing a lug nut and backing, this time completely, back into the pit box to have that lug nut tightened, Knaus was told by NASCAR that he didn’t have to have Johnson back completely back into the pit box in that situation. Why was only Knaus told and not the rest of the drivers and crew chiefs during the next drivers’ meeting?

During the live TV broadcast of the race, Steve Letarte (a recent former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief) and Kyle Petty defended NASCAR’s no-call, eventually, seemingly blaming other teams for not understanding the rule. At first, when the pit stop occurred, though, Letarte pointed out the No. 48 miscue, seeming to suggest they would incur a NASCAR penalty. It was like he changed his stance after the non-penalty.

Again, I’m not accusing NASCAR of favoritism or missing the call. Instead, I think the sanctioning body could do a better job of explaining itself. Either that or take a more serious stance on informing teams across the board the specifics of rules that come into play as often as servicing outside pit boxes. The “we’ll do it this way, and they’ll just figure it out” attitude just doesn’t sit well with me.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on October 11, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,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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