Teams will face increased penalties — including the possibility of losing a win — should a car excessively fail postrace inspection following any of the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff races, NASCAR announced Wednesday.
Any driver whose car fails the Laser Inspection Station by a significant amount — or do not have enough lug nuts secure at the end of the race — will be classified as an “encumbered race finish.”
If an “encumbered finish” occurs, a driver who won a race would still keep their victory and be recognized as the official race winner. However, that victory could not be used to secure automatic advancement to the next Chase round or even win the championship.
An “encumbered finish” is declared when the level of infraction is deemed “egregious,” NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller said during a media teleconference Wednesday. That includes a winning car not passing laser inspection by an unspecified “significant” amount, or a car having more than three of its 20 lug nuts not securely fastened.
While the new penalties will go into effect beginning with Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Miller expected the penalties will remain in place for the start of the 2017 season.
Previously, a driver would lose 15 points, have their crew chief serve a one-race suspension and pay a $20,000 if a single lug nut was improperly secured. But at the urging of its competitors, NASCAR revised the policy so that a single missing lug nut would not adversely impact the championship. Drivers who do not win but finish elsewhere in the finishing order are also subject to the increased penalties.
Now, it takes more than two missing lug nuts to warrant a 15-point deduction. And if more than three lug nuts are missing, the penalties are significant beyond just losing the benefits of a win; a team would also be docked 35 driver and owner points, fined $65,000 and the crew chief suspended three races.
Chase participants Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson were penalized for failing the laser platform during the regular season, while Larson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch had their respective crew chiefs suspended for lug nut violations.
“We want to ensure that everything was in check with the LIS and the lug nuts, which are both new rules for this year,’’ Miller said. “We wanted to make sure that the door wasn’t open for a team to really take advantage of the rules. The level of infraction that it takes to end up with an encumbered finish, we haven’t seen that. It would certainly be egregious from everything we’ve seen before. We want to get these things in place to ensure we have a level playing field and nobody tries to take advantage of the current rules.”