Race Weekend Central

Voices from the Cheap Seats: NASCAR Only Goes Halfway with New Rule

Last week, I put out there that, while tragic, the death of Kevin Ward, Jr. was totally avoidable on two separate fronts. First, don’t do insanely stupid things like Ward did; and second, a sanctioning body could have had a rule that makes enraged drivers think twice about doing insanely stupid things when it is not obvious to themselves. I even gave said body a template to work with…

“… unless threatened by fire or other perceived life threatening circumstances, any driver involved in a crash MUST remain in the vehicle until emergency personnel arrive at said vehicle. Any driver deemed to be in violation of this policy will be immediately suspended from ALL further participation in that series and track for the remainder of the season – no exceptions, no appeal.”

So imagine my surprise when it was announced by NASCAR that a rule similar in nature had in fact been instituted into NASCAR’s No. 2 pencil-written rulebook.

To be honest, I was expecting a call from the Daytona Ivory Tower – hopefully from someone other than Brian France himself seeing as how I don’t think I could talk down to his level even if I do live in the hills of East Tennessee – thanking me for said template, but one has not arrived yet. Or maybe it has and it just hasn’t gotten through as I am not, nor ever will be, a customer of Sprint or in anyone’s Framily. I like to think that perhaps they are just too busy at the present time and someone will remember to call when things calm down a bit, what with the construction and all.

While I was surprised by the formation of the rule itself, after reading NASCAR’s official stance on it, I was not surprised that, yet again, it managed to screw up the simplest concept and have shown, as if on cue, that anyone in the upper echelon of NASCAR can’t tell their head from their ass. Here is the official new rule:

Section 9-16 On-Track Incident Procedure: During an Event, if a racecar is involved in an on-track incident and/or is stopped on or near the racing surface and unable to continue to make forward progress, unless extenuating emergency conditions exist with the racecar (i.e. fire, smoke in cockpit, etc.) the driver should take the following steps: · Shut off electrical power and, if driver is uninjured, lower window net · Do not loosen, disconnect or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official · After being directed to exit the racecar, the driver should proceed to either the ambulance, other vehicle, or as otherwise directed by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official · At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron · At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle All vehicles not involved in the incident or that are able to continue afterwards should slow down to a cautious speed as outlined in Section 10-4 (Yellow Flag), use extreme care as they approach an incident scene, and follow any directions given by safety personnel or NASCAR/Track Officials. Cars in line behind the safety car should not weave or otherwise stray from the line in the vicinity of the incident.

As you can see, the NASCAR lawyers had to spruce it up a bit, but the gist of it is as I originally laid out. That is all fine and dandy, but what about the consequences of violating such a rule? Something like, oh, I don’t know, waiting on the track to throw your helmet at Matt Kenseth’s car?

Well, folks, here are the consequences…

“As with other behavioral infractions, NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.”

In layman’s terms, that means it all depends how important you are within the scope of the sport itself.

(Credit: CIA)
If Jeff Gordon went against one of NASCAR’s new rules, would the sport actually care? (Credit: CIA)

Do you think for one minute that if, say, Jeff Gordon were to violate the rule that he’d get the same penalty as an also-ran like Landon Cassill? What are they going to do, kick Gordon out of the Chase? Make him ineligible to win the championship? Of course not! Cassill, on the other hand? Well, remember what they did to Carl Long over a unintentional rules infraction during the 2009 All-Star Race – a non-points race, to boot?

Look, people, for a rule to be effective at anything, it has to have at least two things: Consequences with enough sting to them to make someone think twice about violating it and equal enforcement of said rule for everyone, no matter what your name is, how popular you may be or how high you are in the points.

As it stands now, the only ones who will be scared of it are no-names and up-and-comers like Kyle Larson, a kid that was actually thinking twice about getting out of a burning car. Do you seriously think that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Jimmie Johnson is going to give a rat’s ass, at this point in the season, about the new rule?

No, they will not. And NASCAR will let them get away with it with only a token slap on the wrist because, let’s face it, someone like Tony Stewart throwing his helmet at Matt Kenseth on the track at Bristol, well, that just makes great TV.

And speaking of rules and Tony Stewart: as it stands now, due to Stewart sitting out at Michigan this past weekend, he is technically ineligible to qualify for the Chase because a driver must qualify or race every weekend to be eligible. NASCAR would have to issue a waiver of that rule for him to now be eligible.

While no request for a waiver has been as of yet asked for, it is reported that NASCAR officials refuse to speculate at this point if they would issue one if it is requested. In other words, “Well, it IS written in pencil… if we were to turn that pencil over, the possibilities are endless!”

Personally, if a waiver is requested, I don’t think it should be granted. Nothing against Stewart, but hey, life is life, crap happens all the time through no fault of your own. All you can do is live with it. Of course, though, since I am of the opinion that no waiver should be granted, NASCAR will surely give him one. I’d bet $10 on it!

Take note, Greg Zipadelli!

Stay off the wall, (and stay with your car!)

Jeff Meyer

About the author

Jeff is one of the longest-tenured staffers at Frontstretch, starting his second decade as the resident humorist and pain-in-the-butt that keeps NASCAR (and his fellow co-workers) honest. Writing Voices From The Cheap Seats, every Tuesday, his BSNews! Segments along with alter ego “Stu Padasso” have developed a large following. Jeff makes his home in Tennessee and is a Bristol groupie, camping out for the August night race every year since he can remember.

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NASCAR often considers the stature of a driver in deciding how rules will be enforced. Wow, who knew! Inciteful reporting. Isn’t this the day that none time champion Kimomo Carl Edwards announces his intention to check into the outpatient mental health clinic known as JGR never to be heard from again?

Michael in SoCal

Kimono Carl – that’s good.


If Stewart comes back and wins a race, how long do you think it would take Brian to phone Hendrick for permission to let Stewart into the chase? Because he can.

As in all Brian rules, the ink on this one has turned invisible by now.


The point is not to treat the drivers as kindergarten kids (which is what your proposed rule/penalty would do) but to draw a line at behavior that is potentially dangerous to themselves or another driver. Getting out of a car before the safety truck gets there is not by itself overly dangerous. Making a nasty gesture in the direction of another driver is not by itself overly dangerous.

For someone who dislikes so much about the sport, why do you keep writing about it? You complain about the Frances, you complain about drivers, you complain about the racing. You don’t have to stick around, why not go cover something else, like the riots in Ferguson?


Part of the rule is unenforceable anyway. Every instance I’ve seen of a car not being able to continue had “smoke” of some sort (or steam) in the cockpit. Driver says “there was smoke in the cockpit”, no infraction. Now, “approaching the racing surface…” might be enforceable.

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