Word in the NASCAR forums is that NASCAR is playing favorites with some of the new rules they’ve announced over the past few years. There’s a lot of talk in the forums and groups that this favoritism is related to money. The first rule in question was announced prior to the start of the 2015 season at Daytona and had to do with driver participation and championship eligibility. The second rule was announced before the beginning of the 2016 Chase and deals with failure at the Laser Inspection Station (LIS) before and after races.
NASCAR’s Race Participation Rule
NASCAR made a big splash prior to the 2015 season when they announced a new rule modifying participation requirements for drivers to be eligible to compete in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Specifically, what NASCAR said is that if a driver wishes to be eligible to compete for the Sprint Cup Championship, that driver had to attempt to qualify for all 26 points races leading up to the Chase.
NASCAR Has Made Exceptions to This Rule Twice Already
You may remember that in the XFINTIY opener in 2015 at Daytona International Raceway, Kyle Busch suffered fractures to both of his legs when he ran head-on into the non-SAFER Barrier-equipped inside wall during a late race accident. This accident kept him out for 11 of the first races during the season.
Instead of saying “Sorry Kyle, you’ll have to wait for next year to try for a Cup Championship,” NASCAR went back on their brand new rule and said that Kyle would have to win at least one race during the run up to the Chase and be in the top 30 in points when the Chase began to be eligible to compete in the Chase for the Championship. Kyle eventually went on to win six races during the 2015 “regular season” and won the Cup Championship by winning at Homestead-Miami in November.
Fast forward to 2016 and Tony Stewart has to sit out three races because of injuries sustained in a non-NASCAR midget car race. Tony had announced that 2016 would be his final year as a driver (probably as a full-time driver) in NASCAR. Again, NASCAR made an exception to their participation/eligibility rule and said Tony would have to win at least one race and be in the top 30 in points by the time the Chase rolled around in order to compete in the Chase. Tony was recently eliminated from the Chase.
The Rumors Regarding Why These Two Exceptions Were Made
In regards to Kyle, there are two rumors. The first is that Toyota threatened to pull out of NASCAR, leaving only two manufacturers, if Kyle wasn’t allowed to participate. The second is that Kyle, known as Rowdy, draws crowds to the races he’s in, whether they be Cup, XFINITY, or Camping World Truck races. There are a number of people that feel that NASCAR allowed Kyle to compete because they (NASCAR) were afraid that if Rowdy wasn’t competing for the Championship, many fans would stay home and watch the races on TV instead of going to the track(s) to watch the races.
As for Tony, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports. There are a number of fans out there that feel that Hendrick can do no wrong as far as NASCAR is concerned. Succinctly, they believe that Hendrick owns NASCAR. They point out that JImmie Johnson has won six championships and that is because Chad Knaus is allowed to cheat. These “fans” feels that this “invulnerability” rubs off on SHR because of their affiliation with Hendrick.
NASCAR’s LIS Failure Rule
At the beginning of the 2016 Chase, NASCAR announced a rules change that stated that any driver whose car failed the LIS twice would be subject to a serious P4 penalty, suffer a loss of 25 championship points, and, if that driver won the race, they would lose their automatic berth in the next round of the Chase.
NASCAR Made Another Exception on All Points of This Rule-For a Toyota Driver
Fueling the fires of the rumor mill, Martin Truex Jr failed the LIS twice on three occasions during the 2016 Chase so far. The first time was after he had won a Chase race and been granted the automatic advancement into the next round of the Chase. However, if the new rule had been enforced, he would have received the points penalty and been awarded an “encumbered win” and lost his automatic advancement.
NASCAR said the infraction wasn’t serious enough to warrant the P4 and encumbered finish ruling. The problem many long-time fans have with this statement is that NASCAR didn’t mention any qualifiers to the rule when they announced it. They simply stated that double failures at the LIS before and/or after races was becoming a problem and they wanted to “even the playing field” some.
Further stoking the rumors of favoritism in regards to rules enforcement, although he didn’t win the race where it happened, Jimmie’s car also failed LIS twice at a recent race and he also wasn’t subject to the enforcement of the rule. Again, NASCAR said that the rule violation was too minor for them to award the penalty for the failure. The boards were full of “Of course JJ wasn’t penalized, he drives for Hendrick and everyone knows Chad is a cheater and Hendrick owns NASCAR.”
I’m not going to go so far as to say that Chad Knaus is a cheater or that Hendrick owns NASCAR. Jimmie would have advanced to the next round of the Chase whether or not the P4 penalty was enforced. However, Truex would not have advanced to the Round of 12 if the penalty was enforced. This does lend some credence to the rumors that there is something fishy going on with NASCAR and rules enforcement.
What do you think? Is NASCAR being selective in how it enforces infractions and penalizes drivers and teams? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.