NASCAR’s decision last week to change its post-race penalty structure might have thrown drivers off their game, especially those involved in the Chase.
It doesn’t appear that’s the case.
With Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway serving as the second race of the postseason, they’re glad for some clarity.
“I’m OK with the change,” said Matt Kenseth, who starts eighth Sunday. “Maybe we should have changed it a couple months ago. I’m OK with them going forward, as long as we all know what the penalties are ahead of time.”
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On Tuesday, NASCAR announced it will increase the tolerances at its post-race laser-inspection stations during the Chase, removing all lower-tier penalties. The only penalty remaining is one that is so severe it would cost a driver a victory. That would cost the offending driver a chance at advancing in the Chase. Included in an “encumbered” victory would be a car that has at least three missing lug nuts (as opposed to one).
On Tuesday, NASCAR announced it will increase the tolerances at its post-race laser-inspection stations during the Chase, removing all lower-tier penalties.
This came a week after NASCAR made a pre-Chase announcement that lower-tier LIS infractions would be more stringently enforced.
That all seemingly came apart Sunday, when Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr., and 12th-place finisher Jimmie Johnson were both found to have broken lower-tier rules. But with Truex already assured a spot in the second round of the Chase and Johnson facing a drop in the points standings, the penalties didn’t appear to be equal.
That prompted the penalty-softening change Wednesday.
We want to know that we’re racing other cars evenly and that nobody has an advantage.
“Obviously, it didn’t affect us much,” said Truex, whose No. 78 Toyota team was also docked 10 points for failing post-race inspection the previous week at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. “From the outside perspective of it kind of taints your win. You don’t want people to think you’re winning races by what they call cheating. You get people on social media, and they get upset about it.
“It was such a little thing. That’s the biggest part for me and my guys. I don’t want people to look at them as cheaters or look at us as cheaters and say, ‘Oh, the only reason they’re there is because they’re cheating for 10,000ths of an inch,’ which is really nothing. Yes, it was the rule. That’s the way it was, but I think going forward, everyone realized we don’t need to be talking about that after a great race.”
Carl Edwards, a Chase driver who is on the pole Sunday, just wants penalties to be of equal severity to drivers. He thinks NASCAR got it right.
“NASCAR responded in the best way that they could,” Edwards said. “They police this sport the way that we have asked them to police it. We want to know that we’re racing other cars evenly and that nobody has an advantage.
“But then you get put in these situations like what happened last week, where the penalties are really unequal. I think NASCAR did a good job responding to that.”