NASCAR competition officials announced on Monday that there will be post-race inspections at the track in 2019. This means that race-winning teams found in violation of NASCAR rules would be disqualified. This rule change is a transition away from penalizing teams with fines, suspensions, and/or points deductions, but allowing victories to remain. These post-race inspections will occur shortly after the checkered flag at each track. This will greatly increase the speed of post-race inspections that were held midweek at NASCAR’s Research & Development Center in Concord, NC.
“I think for us, we’re really looking at a total culture change,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. “We’ve been through a deterrence model where we’ve really worked with the race teams at the track and probably been more lenient than we should in terms of the number of times teams can go through inspection and pass, fail and there’s almost incentive to try to get something by NASCAR, so we want to really reverse that trend.”
O’Donnell believes this stiffening of the rules will force teams to be more prepared with the right equipment at the track. The winner, the runner-up finisher, and one randomly selected car will be inspected post-race. Officials are targeting a 90-120 minute time to complete the inspection and confirm the winner.
“We’re going to put it on the teams to bring their equipment right,” says O’Donnell. “When they come to the track, we’ll be much less lenient as they go through technical inspection with stiffer penalties in terms of qualifying, and then ultimately during the race, obviously we want everyone to be racing straight up.”
Current competition officials understand that this is contradictory to the long standing belief that fans should leave the race track with assurance that the first finisher was the winner. A goal of this rule change was to to accelerate the inspection process and avoid the problems that midweek penalties cause over the previous and following weeks.
Jay Fabian, who was named Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series manager earlier this year, offers his take on the rule changes. “We want to be able to avoid the Tuesday, Wednesday announcements of penalties. We want to take that story line away and we’ve got to be rid of all that. So it’s up to the teams to behave the right way and if they don’t, they’ll get a DQ and we’ll move forward from that on a Sunday or Saturday whenever we race instead of a Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, indicated that the problems last year with spoilers and windshields had some impact on the move to more harsh consequences. “I don’t know that our hand was necessarily forced,” Miller says, “but really and truly a lot of the team owners, we have this culture of playing these cat-and-mouse games between us and the teams, and that’s really kind of a lot of wasted energy on both sides of the fence and I think that the best way for us to get our arms around that is to have a little bit stiffer deterrent. They kind of asked for it, and it was time. Definitely a departure for us, but times change and I think this is just one of those things of us changing with the times.”
In addition to post-race inspections at the track, NASCAR will still inspect cars at the R&D Center according to Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s vice president of officiating and technical inspection. Sawyer said there is still a chance of penalties to come from the R&D Center in Concord, NC, but that possibility will be greatly reduced. He also indicated that penalties will still be classified as L1 or L2, following the structure that has been in place since 2017.