NASCAR doesn't typically strip drivers of victories for post-race infractions; however, at the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in 2008, NASCAR penalized Regan Smith for passing race leader Tony Stewart under the yellow line as the two came to the checkered flag. Stewart was awarded the victory and Regan was relegated to 18th place. That decision was based on a rules violation that occurred during a race.
Recently, the closest NASCAR has come to stripping a victory from a driver for a post-race violation was in March 2008 at the UAW-Dodge 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was there that Carl Edwards' winning car was found to not have the cover over the oil reservoir tank fastened tightly. In NASCAR's determination, the loose cover could have allowed air to ventilate through the opening and improve downforce during the race. NASCAR penalized Edwards 100 points, but more importantly, they docked him the 10 points he would have earned toward the Chase for the Cup.
The only time in the modern era that NASCAR has taken away a victory following a race was in 1991 after Ricky Rudd bumped the late Davey Allison out of the way on the final turn at Sears Point Raceway. Rudd took the checkered flag, but NASCAR awarded the win to Allison after determining Rudd's move was less than sportsmanlike.
Post-race Inspection and Penalties
When conducting a post-race inspection, NASCAR investigates several things. First and foremost, inspectors measure the height of the rear wing. NASCAR gives teams the benefit of the doubt during these inspections. In other words, it takes in account race damage as possible reasons for a car not coming in at the mandated measurements. In fact, there's usually a range the car must fall into. Officials measure the height of the rear wing and front splitter from the ground. If the car is outside of the tolerance area, the car is subject to an infraction.
From time to time, NASCAR randomly selects race engines to run through a dynamometer for inspection purposes. This process happens in Concord at the Research and Development Center. Usually, teams don't sweat these inspections, but on occasion, red flags have been raised. NASCAR is mainly concerned with horsepower output during these dyno inspections.
Every so often, inspectors do find infractions during a post-race inspection. Sometimes these violations are attributed to racing damage while other times, NASCAR deems them as intentional attempts to circumvent the rules. One of the frustrating aspects of the NASCAR rules is the notion of intent. NASCAR must make a judgment and handle each situation according to what it finds. By building the car of tomorrow (COT) and revamping the inspection process, NASCAR was able to change its outlook on infractions and subsequent penalties.
NASCAR typically waits until the Tuesday after race day to issue penalties. And as you read earlier, Hendrick Motorsports learned first hand that NASCAR would be firm when it comes to penalizing teams that are found guilty of breaking the rules with the COT. NASCAR continues to have as close to a no-tolerance policy as it ever has. Penalties are strict and crew chiefs and other team members have lost jobs in the wake of them. In 2007, Michael Waltrip Racing fired the crew chief of the #55 Toyota driven by Waltrip himself after NASCAR found an illegal substance in the fuel system. More recently, Red Bull Racing fired the team members responsible for the illegal sheet metal found on the #83 Toyota driven by Brian Vickers.
Since the COT's launch, the penalties have been very costly, both for the driver who suffers point losses, and the teams which pay fines -- in some cases, up to $150,000.
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