Sweeping changes are coming to NASCAR following the discovery that multiple teams conspired to alter the finish in last week's Sprint Cup regular-season finale at Richmond.
The rule amendments were announced initially in a mandatory closed-door meeting with drivers, crew chiefs, owners and other team personnel. NASCAR officials stressed the premise behind the initiative is for drivers to put forth 100 percent effort on every lap and finish as best they can. The change is also meant to dissuade teams from manipulating the finishing order.
"We wanted it to be very clear, and we wanted to reinforce, frankly, the cornerstone of NASCAR, which is giving your all," NASCAR CEO Brian France said. That's the cornerstone of any sport. The extent that other factors got in the way of that we want to make sure that we eliminate those factors and deal with it going forward
"(Drivers) want to have clarity and they don't like team rules, and they don't like some of the things that have gone on in the past."
The new rule reads in part: "Any competitor who takes action with the intent to artificially alter the finishing positions of the event or encourages, persuades or induces others to artificially alter the finishing position of the event shall be subject to a penalty from NASCAR. Such penalties may include but are not limited to disqualification and/or loss of finishing points and/or fines and/or loss of points and/or suspension and/or probation to any and all members of the teams, including any beneficiaries of the prohibited actions."
Making contact racing for position, use of varying fuel strategies, yielding to a faster car and helping teammates draft is all permissible.
In-car communication from Richmond showed Michael Waltrip Racing ordering one of its drivers to inexplicably pit in the final laps along with a mysterious spin by Clint Bowyer. Later evidence uncovered hints of a potential deal between Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports that indicated David Gilliland conceded a position to Penske driver Joey Logano.
The aftermath from Richmond resulted in record penalties being issued to MWR and the exclusion of Martin Truex Jr. from the Chase for the Sprint Cup -- a first in series history -- to be replaced by Ryan Newman. NASCAR later added Jeff Gordon citing the "unprecedented and extraordinary set of circumstances" that prevented him from securing a Chase berth.
These events have created doubt about NASCAR's credibility heading into Sunday's Chase and led to the closed-door meeting, which France described as a "frank discussion."
"Circumstances happen that are unhelpful in the credibility category, there's no doubt about that," France said. "And you go back to what you're about, and what we're about is the best racing in the world with the best drivers giving 100 percent of their ability, and to the extent that we get off of that for any reason, then it's our job to have the rules of the road and the rules of the race such that it achieves that every day.
"If it's not this, it might be something else. You deal with it. We have dealt with it as best that we can, and we move on."
Among the changes is the elimination of deal brokering among rival teams in exchange for the concession of a position. The usage of private team communication by disallowing spotters the use of digital radios (they are still permitted to use analog radios to talk with drivers and crew chiefs.) has also been eliminated. Furthermore, teams are also only allowed to have one spotter in the spotter's stand above the track.
All changes are in effect beginning with Sunday's Geico 400. A change in NASCAR's restart policy is also forthcoming. The exact procedure for that will be announced during Sunday's drivers' meeting.