By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Race-winner Martin Truex, Jr., and Jimmie Johnson won’t be stripped of points or fined after failing post-race LIS inspection at Chicagoland Speedway. Instead, in the interest of fairness, NASCAR has elected take the blame and make changes to post-race procedures moving forward.
Both Truex and Johnson appeared due for penalties after being caught with minor infractions following Sunday’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, but the repercussions were stripped when NASCAR observed a clear issue with their penalty system relevant to Chase benefits.
NASCAR confirmed Wednesday that both Truex and Johnson would’ve been issued P2 penalties under the penalty structure created prior to the beginning of this season’s Chase. However, given the minor stature of the penalties, Truex would’ve been able to use his win to advance to the second round of the Chase, while Johnson would’ve been knocked to the bubble in 12th after a 10-point penalty.
“Those penalties will not have the same impact on the competitors, based on the Chase format and the increased emphasis on win bonuses,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer said.
“This is also a situation we could see repeating itself for the next nine races of the Chase going forward. So we made the decision coming out of Chicago not to penalize the No. 78 or the No. 48 for the post-race infractions we saw in Chicago for what — we believe the industry would agree — were minor in nature.”
The new plan is simple – remove the minor penalties and with it the gray area for teams that fail LIS inspection.
“Going forward, we are going to eliminate the P2 and P3 level penalties on the post-race LIS and that will leave the only post-race LIS infraction being a P4 level,” O’Donnell said. “That’s the most egregious level.”
With the new system, NASCAR keeps the “encumbered finish” rules implemented shortly before the Chase while giving competitors a little more penalty-free wiggle room before they get there. The current rules state that a team found to have caused an encumbered finish will be docked 35 points, fined $65,000, stripped of any benefits from the result (including a Chase advancement from a win) and the team’s crew chief will be given a three-week suspension.
Another change included with the rule changes involves the amount of Chase teams required to go through inspection. Now all teams currently in the Chase will be required to pass post-race inspection following each event, meaning 16 teams will go through post-race inspection in the first round, with 12, eight and four teams being required in subsequent rounds. Only the top eight Chase teams were required to go through post-race inspection after Sunday’s race at Chicagoland under the old rules.
The post-race inspection rules will also apply to the XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series, which each begin their inaugural Chases this weekend at Kentucky Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, respectively.
“We believe we’ve (now) landed on the most fair decision for the competitors,” O’Donnell said.
Fans and competitors will get their first look at the new penalty process this weekend in the Sprint Cup Series when the field heads to New Hampshire for the Bad Boy Off Road 300.