On more than one occasion, I have come home from a night at the dirt track and written my post-race story only to find out that the driver who I thought had won had in fact been stripped of his win due to a failed inspection. I simply cannot understand why this is such a hard thing for NASCAR to implement.
I understand the whole idea of having fans know who won the race when they leave the track. After all, I was there in 1978 when a scoring snafu caused the race winner in Atlanta to be bounced around between Donnie Allison and Richard Petty multiple times before Allison was officially declared the victor hours later. By that time, fans had left the track and many did not know who had won the race until the next day or even days later.
But in this time of instantaneous communication, the concept of needing to declare a winner before fans leave the facility has long outlived its time. Social media and the internet provide the platform for fans to find out that a win had been taken away at the moment the decision is made.
The fact that Denny Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing teams in both the Xfinity Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series won races in Darlington with cars that did not fully comply with the rules but were allowed to keep the wins in the record books is ridiculous. And furthermore, to add the “penalty” of calling those wins encumbered is laughable.
After all, the Xfinity win on Saturday being labeled encumbered is completely pointless considering that Hamlin isn’t even pursuing that championship. And the ruling is virtually useless regarding the Cup win considering that Hamlin is already locked into the playoffs with other victories.
Yes, I know Hamlin was docked a few points for the Cup playoffs but if he runs well enough to win an early playoff race, that is hardly going to matter. If he isn’t running well at that time, then he probably wasn’t going to win the championship anyway.
Fines and suspensions of crew members obviously doesn’t seem to be working as JGR has experienced multiple such penalties this season alone. Other teams have also experienced those sanctions and simply elevate another high ranking employee to the temporary rank of crew chief. We have even seen teams with interim crew chiefs win races in the past so the fines and suspensions do not exactly seem like a punishment for the top organizations in NASCAR.
In 2015, Scott Bloomquist had a win taken away in one of the most lucrative Dirt Late Model races on the schedule after his car was found to be too light when it crossed the scales at the Eldora Speedway following the Dirt Late Model Dream. If that version of the sport can have one of its biggest stars disqualified from a win in one of its biggest events, why can NASCAR not do the same?
Fines are not working. Suspensions at not working. The “encumbered win” penalty is a joke if the driver in question is already locked into the playoffs or isn’t even competing for the title in a particular series. It’s time for NASCAR to do the only thing that will make a difference and force teams to ensure that their cars are in compliance with the rules. That thing is to take wins away.