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The Most Penalized Rules in NASCAR

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As with any sport, penalties are a way of life for NASCAR drivers. NASCAR, as a sanctioning body, has its very own rule book which, by and large, is ironclad. That, however, has never stopped some more…shall we say, “creative” crew chiefs from interpreting the few gray areas of said Rule Book in order to gain a competitive edge over the rest of the field. As DW once said, they weren’t rule breakers, they were rule makers!

But, as the years have gone by, more and more rules have been added to the NASCAR Rule Book and those gray blotches shrank. This begs the question: What are the most penalized rules in NASCAR? Let’s take a look!

Common Pre-Race Penalties

Almost always, pre-race penalties in a given race weekend come from a driver and/or team failing pre-race inspection. This inspection can be before practice and qualifying or it could be right before the race. Typically, if a team fails inspection once, they’re told to fix the problem and then go through inspection again. If they pass the second time, there are usually no further penalties handed out.

If a team fails pre-race inspection a second time, typically, a crew member (usually the car chief) will be ejected from the race weekend. Whatever the problem area is will sometimes be confiscated, the teams will be told to fix the issue and they will resubmit their car to NASCAR inspection a third time. If the car passes the third time through the inspection line, then typically, no further penalties are dished out.

However, if a car fails inspection for a third time, which rarely ever happens, this constitutes a drive-thru penalty on pit road during the first green-flag lap of a given race, which would usually cause a team to go at least one lap down.

Typically, pre-race penalties fall under the L1 penalty section of the NASCAR Rule Book, which could see teams lose 10-40 driver/owner points, the suspension of one or more crew members (typically the crew chief or car chief), and a fine for said crew members, driver, and owner that is between $25,000 and $75,000 U. S. dollars.

Common In-Race Penalties

If a team has been able to make it through inspection squeaky clean and the green flag has been waved, they might think they’re home free. But, NASCAR teams and drivers are prone to mistakes that can set their day back if not ruin it entirely. Common in-race penalties are among the most common for any NASCAR team.

Pit Road Penalties

Needless to say, most in-race NASCAR penalties occur on pit road. The most common of these is speed penalties either while a driver is coming onto or exiting pit road. Each track’s pit road has a different speed limit though, usually, that limit is between 30 and 65 miles per hour. Though NASCAR stock cars do not have speedometers, they have a light system that alerts a driver when they are past the speed limit on a given pit road. But sometimes, those sensors are not set accurately and a driver will push the limit.

Pit road speeding penalties account for roughly 80% of all NASCAR’s penalties in a given year. Usually, these penalties result in another pass down pit road, at speed, which usually results in the driver going at least 1 lap down.

The Yellow Line Rule (on Superspeedways)

Superspeedways (such as Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta) are unique in many ways. In accordance with the NASCAR Rule Book, these tracks implement a “yellow line” policy, where drivers are not allowed to pass below a double line separating the racing surface from the apron of the track. While not as common anymore, this penalty was once a heated debate amongst drivers and industry insiders in NASCAR.

The penalty for passing below the yellow line on a superspeedway initially is to give the position back to the driver they passed. If the penalized driver fails to do this, they then must serve a pass-through penalty which can see them suffer from losing a lap or two in the process. There is no points/monetary fine for this type of penalty.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy Clock

This penalty is a more recent one. The gist is that once a car is involved in an on-track incident, it basically has 6 minutes to fix the damage. If they cannot fix said damage before the Damaged Vehicle Clock runs out, the car is automatically retired from the race.

Common Post-Race Penalties

Like pre-race penalties, most post-race penalties stem from inspection issues. Cars filter through post-race inspection about an hour to two hours after a given race. If there are no issues found, all is good and the race results become official. A winner is crowned and all is right with the world. But if a car doesn’t pass inspection, that’s when problems arise.

The first thing checked is the lug nuts and whether they’re tight. For a single loose lug, a crew chief can be fined up to $10,000 dollars. If two or more are found, the crew chief is then ejected for one race and fined up to $20,000.

Other post-race penalties include tampering with the pre-ordered parts on the NextGen car. Usually, if a team is thought to have tampered with this area of the NASCAR Rule Book, a driver/team/owner can be fined up to $100,000 and ultimately disqualified from the race, forfeiting their points earned throughout the race. And sometimes they’re even docked an additional 100 points, as in the case of Brad K. in 2022.

The most recent example of this is eventual 2023 NASCAR champion, Ryan Blaney being disqualified in Las Vegas. The penalty was eventually rescinded but if it hadn’t been, this would’ve been a massive blow to that team in their championship hunt. Another more recent example is from 2022 when BOTH the winner and second-place finishers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were disqualified, handing the victory to NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott.

Actions Detrimental To Stockcar Auto Racing

Actions Detrimental to Stockcar Auto Racing is really a blanket term. The NASCAR Rule Book Section 12 rule can be attached to any number of infractions from on-track incidents to what a driver says in the media. Most of the time, however, this penalty is dished out after a driver took on-track action.

Denny Hamlin who hosts the Actions Detrimental podcast received an actions detrimental penalty after he, ironically, on his podcast admitted to intentionally running Ross Chastain into the wall at Phoenix. He was ultimately fined $25,000 though, typically, such penalties warrant race suspensions.

In 2015, Matt Kenseth took out Joey Logano in a playoff race at Martinsville, resulting in his 1-race suspension and a massive monetary fine. Two years before that, Michael Waltrip Racing was caught red-handed manipulating race results in order to get their driver, Martin Truex Jr., in the Chase at Richmond. The result was that Truex didn’t make the Chase, team President, Ty Norris, was suspended, and, strangely, a 13th driver Jeff Gordon was added to the then-12-man Chase.

This is a slippery slope penalty that NASCAR can seemingly attach to almost any infraction that they see warrants it.


How do you feel about the NASCAR Rule Book and its various gray areas, Daily Downforce readers? And, maybe more importantly, what are some rules from said book that you think are overstepping on the part of NASCAR? What would you change? How effective do you think NASCAR is at implementing its own rules and regulations? Let us know your thoughts on all of our various social media websites.

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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