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New rules require teams to give '100 per cent'

15 September 2013

It's not been a great week for NASCAR, and the senior management could be forgiven for looking a bit punch drunk on NASCAR as they unveiled their latest response to a week of scandal that has assailed the sport following multiple allegations of race manipulation at last weekend's race at Richmond International Raceway.

With Michael Waltrip Racing, Penske Racing an Front Row Motorsports all having been accused of seeking to improperly influence the outcome of the Chase decider last Saturday by one means or another, NASCAR management was stung by media reports that had started to describe the Richmond race as 'rigged'. On Saturday morning, NASCAR swung into action in an attempt to limit the escalating damage to the sport's reputation.

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France, president Mike Helton and vice-president of competition Robin Pemberton held a 17-minute closed briefing with drivers and teams at Chicagoland Speedway at which they unveiled a new regulation that will be inserted into the series rule book with immediate effect. The trio then subsequently held a press conference to announce the changes that they were putting into place.

"A few moments ago we wrapped up a meeting with the drivers and the owners and crew chiefs, and at the centre of that meeting was what our expectations were going forward," said France. "Those expectations are that a driver and a team give 100 per cent effort, their best effort, to complete a race and race as hard as they possibly can."

The new rule requires drivers to compete "with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in an event. Any competitor who takes action with the intent to artificially alter the finishing positions of the event or encourages, persuades or induces others to artificially alter the finishing position of the event shall be subject to a penalty from NASCAR.

"Such penalties may include but are limited to disqualification and/or loss of finishing points and/or fines and/or loss of points and/or suspension and/or probation to any and all members of the teams, including any beneficiaries of the prohibited actions," continues the new regulation. "'Artificially altered' shall be defined as actions by any competitor that show or suggest that the competitor did not race at 100 per cent of their ability for the purpose of changing finishing positions in the event at NASCAR's sole discretion."

NASCAR also released a preliminary list of examples of action that are allowed, and others which are not. Still considered acceptable reasons are: contact while racing for position; performance issues; drafting; pitting; tyre management; fuel management; yielding to a faster car; alternative pit strategy; and long fuel strategy. When it came to moving over for other competitors, that would only be allowed on the basis of 'let one pass, let all pass' which is fairly common when getting ready for restarts. 'Start-and-park' entries are not affected by the demand for 100 per cent effort, and the leader of the race allowing a team mate to pass in order to claim a bonus point for leading a lap would also be acceptable as it doen't affect the ultimate race result.

The examples of unacceptable actions include: offering a position in exchange for favour or material benefit; offering material benefit in exchange for track position; directing a driver to give up a position to the benefit of another driver; intentionally causing a caution; causing a caution for the benefit of or determinant of another driver; intentionally wrecking a competitor; and intentionally pitting or pulling into the garage to gain advantage for another competitor.

"This is only a working list, it's only a very early list. It's not all-inclusive," admitted Helton. "This list is examples and doesn't mean that if it's not on this list it's okay if it's under the unacceptable, and there could very well be some things that we define going forward on the acceptable list.

"This is day one of this phase of NASCAR and its responsibility to the fans and to the industry of regulating the sport around this topic," he added. "But these are some examples, and these are the ones that we shared with the teams."

NASCAR also announced that from this weekend, only one spotter per car would be allowed to work on each spotters' stand and would only be allowed analogue radios to communicate with the team - digital communications devices, which can be encrypted and therefore used to set up covert team orders, are no longer permitted. In addition, spotters' stands will now be covered by a video camera to monitor activities.

NASCAR is also expected to issue new guidance and instructions covering restarts in time for Sunday's GEICO 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, an issue that has been festering for much of the season.

Helton added that the drivers and teams appeared to be broadly supportive of the new regulations being brought in, and all too aware of the need to maintain the integrity of the sport after the events of the last seven days.

"There's been a lot of dialogue since last Saturday night throughout the garage," he said. "I would define this meeting as they were very attentive and probably was the most broadly listened-to conversation we've had in a while in that collective group.

"It was an open dialogue back and forth. We certainly laid down where we were and what we were intending to do going forward. Brian addressed them on the character of the sport and the necessity for us protecting it," he added.

“We wanted to be very clear, and we wanted to reinforce, frankly, the cornerstone of NASCAR, which is giving your all,” France added. "That's what our fans expect, and that's what the drivers want to do as well, so that was the centrepiece.

"My hope is that we'll have greater, greater, clarity, and we'll have that line as bright as possible because we're about delivering for our fans what they expect - and that's the best racing," he added. "That's the cornerstone of any sport."

"I think everyone should have a pretty clear understanding of what that is now," commented Paul Wolfe, crew chief of Brad Keselowski's #2 Penske Racing car. "If you go out there and run 100 per cent to your ability and run a normal race then everything will be fine.

"I think a lot of it is just common sense," he added. "I think it got everyone's attention. Like I said, I don't expect it to be a big deal moving forward."


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