“We’re changing the culture”
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer set the tone in a meeting Monday that was meant to debrief the media with all the changes coming to the 2019 season and beyond. The changes and goals for the near future that were laid out deal with many issues such as qualifying procedures, next-gen vehicles, OEM’s, and perhaps most significantly, the inspection procedures. For the first time since 1960, a winner could be disqualified if their car is deemed illegal by new post-race inspection procedures that will take place at the track instead of the North Carolina NASCAR Research & Development Center. The penalty, if given, can be appealed by the team and go through an expedited appeals process.
That means that the disqualified driver lose their 1st place finish, 1st place points, 1st place money, and yes, the 1st place trophy. They would effectively be placed last, and everyone else would each move up one spot. The 2nd place finisher, if found to have a legal car, would then be named the winner of the race. They will have all the benefits the winner would receive including a berth into the playoffs and the playoffs points that come with the win. The same goes for any stage points earned. In a DQ situation, stage points and playoff points earned in a stage are lost. and given to the next drivers.
This change comes from years of benefits being taken away from winners that had illegal cars, but kept the trophy and the “”+1” in the win column. Now, NASCAR is changing that mentality and will take all of that away, not for something small like a missing lug nut. But if a car is missing 3 lug nuts, or if there is any infraction that would cause the previous “encumbered” rulings (or cucumbered, if you will), NASCAR will bring the hammer down. No more waiting for the mid-week penalty report, we will know of any infraction within 90 minutes of the race completion, according to NASCAR. 1st and 2nd place finishers and a “random” car, usually the 3rd place finisher, will have their cars stripped down right then and there at the track and will process accordingly.
The post-race penalty changes don’t stop there. If a sealed engine (teams are required to run a sealed used engine for a certain amount of races) fails inspection, it is a 70 point penalty, a costly measure when winning both stages and the race add up to a maximum of 60 points. I mentioned earlier that lug nuts could end in a DQ, only if it is 3 or more unsecured. One loose lug nut at the end of the race would only result in a minor penalty, as it has been recently. 2 lug nuts would be slightly more, but nothing major is handed down until it reaches 3 or more, and this is for safety concerns.
In addition to all of the post-race inspection changes, the pre-race and pre-qualifying inspection procedures. Inspection is no longer only open at specified times, it will not be available for teams at all times. Cars will reportedly be checked as they exit the hauler at the beginning of the weekend. If they unload with an illegal part, they are handed an L1 penalty.
If a team fails pre-qualifying inspection twice, they are given a 15 minute hold on their practice time and a crew member is ejected. If a team fails a third time, an additional 15 minute hold on practice time and the team is not allowed to post a qualifying time. For pre-race inspections, failing twice results in a 15 minute hold in the following week’s practice and a crew member is ejected. They also lose their starting spot and must start at the rear of the field. If a team fails pre-race inspection a 3rd time, they lose an additional 15 minutes of practice and must serve a green-flag pass through penalty on pit road at the start of the race. Any additional inspection failures result in an L1 penalty.
In the case of an “Enhanced Schedule” where there’s only one inspection and it takes place in between qualifying and the race, 1 failure results in a disallowed time and starting at the rear. A 2nd failure results in an ejected crew member. And a 3rd failure forces a pass through penalty at the start of the race and an L1 penalty. Teams can, at any time in any weekend, voluntarily go through inspection but they do so at their own risk as penalties can be handed out even in voluntary inspections.
A couple other things to note pertaining to the penalty announcements: a random car is still taken back to NASCAR R&D, but different from years past, no penalties will be handed down if anything is found during that process. NASCAR will then inform the teams what they found that they will no longer allow in the future. NASCAR also is not wanting to concern themselves with burnouts and celebrations that have potential to damage a winning race car, but they also hinted that their mentality could change if there are repeated offenders causing problems.
Here are more highlights from the series of announcements made today:
- The qualifying procedures are also changing slightly in 2019. Despite the new package that will be used in a majority of the schedule focusing on drafting, the group qualifying format is here to stay for the time being. The first round of qualifying is being shortened from 15 minutes to 10 minutes on short tracks and intermediate tracks and the cool down periods are being cut to 5 minutes from 7. All other aspects of the group qualifying rules, including Daytona/Talladega and road course procedures remain the same.
- Composite bodies are now required in the Xfinity Series, and they are likely to be introduced in the Cup and Truck Series. Specifically for the Cup teams, they look to potentially bring in composite bodies for a new Gen-7 car that has a current estimated time of arrival of Daytona 2021, ending an 8 year run for the current Gen-6. There’s been a lot of speculation over what these cars will look like and one thing that will be a factor is…
- NASCAR hopes to have 5 manufacturers, in addition to the current 3 (Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota). The idea is that the Gen-7 is appealing to new manufacturer’s and talks are reportedly ongoing. Another factor in a Gen-7 switch is that no new OEM engine is expected until 2022, to allow for the car to be launched first.
- Xfinity drivers are now having to face the same participation restrictions as Cup drivers, but only for the Truck season finale. At Homestead-Miami, only drivers receiving points in the Truck Series can participate in the race, one step farther than last year where only Cup drivers were the ones prohibited from the race. For context, Cup drivers are barred from racing in the Xfinity and Truck series regular season finales and playoff races and Cup drivers with more than 5 years experience in Cup are limited in how many races they can run in those series. There are no other such restrictions for Xfinity drivers.
- A strap on the front and/or rear of the car is now an optional feature. The purpose of the strap is to attach to a safety vehicle and pull the car out of grass or sand traps if necessary. Several times in previous years, cars have been stuck in grass with minor damage, where drivers would have to exit their car/truck for them to move the car, effectively ending their day per the rules. Now, if they have the optional strap, they can be pulled out of their predicament, stay in their car/truck and carry on.
- Finally, the Dash4Cash is back in Xfinity, same tracks and format as before. Now the Trucks will have the Three Truck Challenge. Three straight races, Texas, Iowa, and Gateway. Winning one earns the winner $50,000, winning two earns the driver $150,000. If a driver manages to sweep the three races, they win a hefty sum of $500,000.
- Soon the K&N Pro Series, ARCA, Pinty’s, PEAK Mexico, and Whelen Euro Series are all intended to have the same parameters on their cars. A “one car fits all”, if you will.