Are NASCAR’s Penalties Getting Out of Hand?

For the second week in-a-row, we’re talking about a NASCAR penalty. Last week, Joey Logano saw his win basically taken away, as NASCAR won’t count his victory at the Richmond International Raceway for this year’s playoffs due to his car failing inspection at the R&D Center in Charlotte. They also took away 25 driver points and will see him be without his crew chief Todd Gordon for two races. They were also fined $50k for their car having an issue with the rear suspension.

LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 12: Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 12, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“The penalty is pretty severe,” Logano said last weekend at Talladega. “With that being said, it wasn’t like it was a big thing, but the rule is written and it’s black and white. We pushed a little bit too far and we’ll pay the penalty … move on and attack again.”

His teammate Brad Keselowski saw a fourth place run at Phoenix basically taken away too, with him getting hit with a 35 point penalty, his crew chief suspended three races and the team fined $65k as a result of the rear suspension being in violation. 

That’s $115,000 worth of fines for Penske, both of their crew chiefs being suspended and 60 points taken away from their drivers.

Today, NASCAR handed down a 35 point penalty, a 60k fine and suspension of Aric Almirola’s crew chief for three races due to an issue with his rear suspension after last Sunday’s Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway.

So, three rear end suspension violations, three Ford drivers, three different tracks.

Hmm….

The question now has to be, are these penalties overshadowing the races and are they getting out of hand? Logano’s win basically doesn’t count, two top five finishes, well they don’t count either. The issue is, these are being taken away days after the race has already been completed. Is that a problem?

I get the logistics make it hard to announce something after the race. It’s hard to penalize something that you don’t know about until after the checkered flag drops and after fans are already on their way home. It’s not like stick and ball sports where someone commits a foul or penalty and the game is stopped then.

But, these penalties are stealing the show after. Instead of remembering a great race like we saw at Richmond and Talladega, we’re talking about penalties. That and the issues with teams in the inspection line before qualifying, has the 2017 season known as the year of penalties/inspection.

But, what do you do about it?

NASCAR can’t just not penalize teams for breaking the rules. That’s a fact. If you break a rule, you should face the consequences. Also, the consequences must match the penalty and be consistent, and so far, they have been.

But, do you really want to announce penalties every week?

One side is, penalize them hard enough to not want to do it again. Some say sit the driver or team for that race weekend or the next one. But who does that benefit? Fans pay hard earned money to travel to races, do you want to pay all that money on tickets, hotels, gas, food, etc to see your favorite driver not race in that given race weekend?

Another side is take the points/money away from that race they cheated. My take? Aren’t they already basically doing that? Almirola, finished fourth, given 37 points for that, that 35 point penalty is just two less points than he would have earned before bonus points. Same with Keselowski. The monetary fine, isn’t that basically taking away prize money too? My reasoning, they’re already taking points/money away like for the violation on that given race weekend, and they’re still pushing the limits.

Points and money isn’t stopping teams from pushing the limits.

So, how do you send a message?

I haven’t heard a good idea yet on how. It’s a slippery slope. If you expand the rule book, the teams will expand their reach. If you say you have a two inch clearance, they’re going to use all two inches. If you say the pit road speed limit is now 75 mph, they’re going to go 75 or above. In order to stay competitive, teams will always push the limit no matter the situation or consequences facing them.

So, it doesn’t matter what NASCAR does to the rule book, teams will always push the limits on these cars. They have to in order to stay competitive. Plus, a $65k fine for Penske is much different than one for RPM. At RPM, that hits them hard and affects them, but they have to continue to push the envelope, because if they don’t and stay safe through tech, they will run sub 30th place and there goes your sponsors and funding to stay afloat. That’s why it doesn’t matter if it’s Penske, Hendrick, Gibbs or Petty, Leavine Family Racing or Front Row Motorsports, every team, at every track, will push the limits looking for a competitive advantage.

The hardest part is how to punish them and how to make it not steal the headlines later.

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