NASCAR issued sweeping changes to the 2016 rules Friday night specifically targeted at behavior of its members on and off the track. The changes are historic and apply to NASCAR members in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series.
The sanctioning body has never had hard rules that covered behavioral infractions, however that all changed Friday night as the changes to the rulebook were unveiled. The news came as NASCAR prepared for its first race of the season as the Camping World Truck series readied to race its first race of the 2016 season at Daytona International Speedway. The new rules are comprehensive and cover such infractions as the deliberate crashing of another competitor on the track, physical altercations between drivers, members of the media or officials and intentionally altering the outcome of a race. Included in the infractions are racial slurs, disparaging comments and publicly criticizing how NASCAR governs the sport.
Previous incidents have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis, however the new changes issued Friday night cover specific incidents and spell out the possible penalties. For example the new rules cover a competitor that premeditatedly removes another competitor from championship contention in a dangerous manner when not racing for position based on the available evidence and specific circumstances of the incident. The penalty for such an infraction is the loss 50-100 championship points and/or $150,000-$250,000 fine and/or two-race suspension. Last season driver Matt Kenseth intentionally crashed Joey Logano at Martinsville effectively eliminating Logano from championship contention. Among the penalties handed down to Kenseth was a two-race suspension.
For public statements NASCAR considers disparaging towards another person based on race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age or handicapping condition, the penalty could be a fine, indefinite suspension or termination .
In addition, members charged with or convicted of significant criminal violations could also face fines, indefinite suspension or termination. Last season driver Kurt Busch was charged in a domestic incident and was suspended by NASCAR. Busch’s charges were eventually dropped and he was allowed to return to competition.
The NASCAR rules apply to all members in the sport’s national series, whether driver, team owner, crew member or other. The penalties are appealable. The penalties will also be based on the level of an infraction. A verbal confrontation may warrant only a meeting with officials, while a physical confrontation could warrant fines and or a suspension.
For many years the rules governing behavior of NASCAR members have never been clear, with the exception of NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. Drivers have been admonished and fined for disparaging comments, suspended for criminal behavior and penalized for actions on the track. With the new comprehensive rules in place, NASCAR has made it clear what is expected in terms of behavior by its membership. Unlike the past, the sanctioning body now has specific written guidelines that can be used to police the sport.
Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations met with the media at Daytona and said the latest updates are an effort to improve the level of transparency in the sport.
“NASCAR is an aggressive sport,” Cassidy said. “We understand the drivers are going to be aggressive to race for position. That is not going to change. That’s a very significant point, it’s spelled out in the rule and we understand that. “
“But we also understand that there are points in time when the competitors cross the line,” he added. “They should have a better understanding of what exactly may transpire if it’s determined they crossed the line.”