The time has come for NASCAR to begin taking wins away when the winning team breaks the rules to get that win.
This issue has again come to light this week after NASCAR determined that Denny Hamlin’s wins in both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity series were encumbered after the team broke a rule.
In both instances, NASCAR assessed an L1 penalty, which basically means the crew chief is suspended for two races and receives a fine, and the driver and team loses 25 points.
But Hamlin keeps the win. His name is still in the record books. He keeps the trophy. And that simply should not be the case.
NASCAR is a descendant of local racing. I work at a local race track, Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, MI. When a driver wins a race and does not pass post-race inspection, they are disqualified. Period. They don’t receive points, and they don’t receive the win.
Everything about NASCAR’s penalty is essentially taking the win away. The driver/team loses money, they lose points, and the win doesn’t count toward the playoffs. So why should they get credit for the win at all?
NASCAR’s argument has long been that they don’t want the fans to see a driver win only to find out after they left the track that another driver won the race.
That argument may have worked in the 60s and 70s, when races weren’t always televised and there was no internet. But now, as soon as the race is over there’s a post-race show. There is a television show on every single night during the week recapping the news of the day in NASCAR racing. There are countless websites, including this one and NASCAR’s own, which constantly churn out content and make people aware of things that are going on. There is even a 24/7 radio channel on satellite radio devoted to NASCAR.
It used to be if NASCAR took a win away, you might not find out until the following week. But that just isn’t the case anymore. Allowing the driver to keep the win as NASCAR does now only cheapens the sport, makes it seem like cheating is acceptable, because in the end, it’s the win that really matters. $50,000 isn’t a big deal for the team. With the current system the points don’t mean as much either, unless you’re Joey Logano, who depending on the outcome at Richmond Saturday night could have suffered the biggest penalty of all this season.
And this isn’t just a Cup issue. It’s even worse in the Xfinity series. Jeff Gluck said today in his post on this topic that not only are the Cup drivers going down to the lower series and whooping on the series regulars, but they’re doing it in cheated up cars. That makes this even worse, because the penalty really means nothing to the Cup drivers in the lower series. They get the win, they do the burnouts, they get the photo in victory lane, and taking some team points away and a crew chief they won’t be working with next week anyway is not a punishment.
I’m a big supporter of Cup drivers being allowed to run in the lower series, but they need to be held to an even higher standard when they run there. And if NASCAR isn’t going to take the win away in Cup when they cheat, they certainly should do it when a Cup driver does it in a lower series.
This issue continues to be discussed every time it happens, and I think the more it happens the more NASCAR will look at it. I think NASCAR will eventually do the right thing, as they did with the overtime line, and start taking wins away. But until they do, we need to tell them that that’s what we expect.