Friday 5: NASCAR ends practice of drivers sitting in cars to serve penalties
The public shaming drivers, most notably Joey Logano, suffered last year because their cars did not pass inspection will not be repeated this season, NASCAR confirmed.
Logano was forced to sit in his car at the end of pit road for an entire 50-minute practice session in September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway because his car failed to clear qualifying inspection.
At one point, Logano’s wife delivered water as he sat strapped in the car in full uniform. The intent for such penalties was that since drivers are part of a team they should also suffer consequences when their cars failed to pass inspection in a timely fashion.
But the Logano spectacle turned the penalty into “a joke” as Logano called it that day after exiting his car in the garage.
NASCAR will change how it will enforce such penalties this year.
Teams still will be docked practice time but they will serve it in the garage instead of on pit road. Also, the driver no longer has to be in the car. Teams cannot work on the car while it is serving a timed penalty.
Also, teams will serve their penalties at the end of a practice session instead of the beginning. So, if a team has a 15-minute penalty, the driver must take the car back to the garage at that point, exit the car and the team is done for the session.
The move keeps cars from being parked on pit road, drivers sitting in them for 15, 30 minutes or more and people talking more about a car not on track instead of those that are practicing.
2. More details revealed on NASCAR’s new pit crew rules
When NASCAR announced in November that it was eliminating one person from going over the wall to pit the car, it led to many questions. At the time, NASCAR couldn’t answer all those questions as they were sorting through the details of allowing only five people to service the car.
NASCAR provided a few more answers this week.
What happens if a pit crew member is injured during an event?
That person can be replaced by a backup — even if they are assigned to another team. Say, a member of Stewart-Haas Racing’s pit crew is injured and cannot continue. SHR, which has provided pit crews to Front Row Motorsports, could take one member from that pit crew to replace the injured person. Front Row then would have to fill the open spot with someone who is listed as a pit crew member on a team roster.
OK, what about a situation like what happened at Texas in 2010 when Chad Knaus replaced all of his pit crew with teammate Jeff Gordon’s pit crew during a race?
Teams can make changes based on performance within their organization as long as they are on a roster. Recall, teams must submit a roster listing their pit crew, road crew and organizational members each weekend.
Previously it was stated that the fuel man can only fuel the car during a stop. Has that changed?
NASCAR remains steadfast in that the fuel man can only fuel the car — he is not allowed to make adjustments on the car or help with tires. The exception that NASCAR will allow is that the fuel man can kick a tire down in the name of safety — to avoid being hit by a tire.
Wait, there is a time when a fuel man can work on the car?
Yes. Say a team has damage and comes to pit road for repairs. A fuel man can go over the wall to help repair damage but cannot fuel the car during that stop. If a team changes only tires and doesn’t add fuel during a routine stop, the fuel man cannot go over the wall. No fuel, no fuel man over the wall — unless it is related to repairing damage.
3. “Jimmie Johnson rule” goes away
A controversial call NASCAR made last year in the playoff race at Charlotte won’t be repeated this season.
Jimmie Johnson started to pull out of his pit box before his team stopped him because of an unsecured lug nut. Johnson backed his car but it was not entirely in his pit stall when a crew member secured a lug nut on the left front wheel.
As it happened, many figured Johnson would be penalized for having work done on the car outside the pit box.
All such work this season must be done in the pit box, NASCAR confirmed. If not, it’s a penalty.
Another change involves the fuel man. Previously, NASCAR allowed the fuel man to have the fuel can connected to the car and follow the car as it exited its pit stall. That no longer will be allowed. The fuel man must unplug the fuel can before the front of the car crosses over the edge of its pit stall or the team will be penalized for servicing the car outside the stall.
4. Maybe next year
One of the changes Denny Hamlin said the Drivers Council discussed last year was the choose rule. That’s what is used at short tracks.
The premise is that as drivers cross the start/finish line a lap before a restart, drivers have the option to choose if they want to start on the inside or outside lane. On a track where one groove is significantly better .
“I know we talked a little bit about cone choose rule on restarts for some tracks,’’ Hamlin said of the Drivers Council. “That didn’t come forth this year. I know several of us were hoping so, being that there was such a disadvantage at some racetracks such as (you) happen to come off pit lane in the wrong lane, you’re not going to win the race, and that’s not necessarily fair.
“I think giving the drivers a choose rule would be something good to look forward in the future, but overall it’s status quo on the way the stages went. The cars are relatively the same, so there’s good momentum that we need to build on from last year.”
5. One last weekend …
This is the final weekend before NASCAR resumes at Daytona International Speedway. This also marks one of only two weekends without any of NASCAR’s three national series racing between now and the end of the season on Nov. 18.
The other weekend? March 31-April 1 because April 1 is Easter.