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When NASCAR Flexes Its’ Muscles on Drivers

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Throughout NASCAR history, every driver has probably heard this line at least once: “This sport was here long before you, and it will be here long after you.” NASCAR uses this line to remind the drivers and team owners who ultimately run the show, and we’ve seen NASCAR flex its muscles on many drivers as a result.

  • NASCAR has staunchly defended its position throughout history. They don’t take too kindly to drivers going their own way, and they especially don’t take kindly to teams going too far with the rulebook.
  • For this list, we will focus on moments when NASCAR penalized drivers for one simple reason: because they could. There may or may not have been a precedent set beforehand, but NASCAR saw a reason to react when they saw something.
  • Fans are used to NASCAR taking extreme measures when drivers or teams step out of line. It’s all in the name of keeping the integrity of the sport they created.

1961: NASCAR Bans Curtis Turner For Life

In the early 1960s, a few NASCAR drivers, including Curtis Turner, banded together to potentially form a driver’s union. NASCAR President Bill France Sr. did not take this kindly, and Turner was banned from the sport for life in 1961. This was a huge move that sidelined one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, but France felt this was the way to maintain his grip on the sport.

Eventually, France revoked the ban in 1965, and Turner returned to the sport. Since then, unionizing hasn’t gotten off the ground in NASCAR, and based on Denny Hamlin’s most recent comments, it won’t come anytime soon.

1997: NASCAR Bans T-Rex

NASCAR has worked hard throughout history to maintain parity in the sport. It’s more fun to watch multiple drivers fighting for the win than watching one guy ride off into the sunset. That’s why the rulebook exists and why NASCAR is so strict and specific with all of its rules. However, in 1997, Ray Evernham, Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, got creative.

He created a crazy car with an out-of-the-box setup that was 100% legal, and Jeff Gordon dominated the 1997 All-Star Race. However, the next week, NASCAR legislated the car out of existence despite its being completely legal, simply to keep competition close.

The Double Yellow Line Rule

In 2001, in the wake of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death and the increasing danger of superspeedways, NASCAR implemented a new rule. If a driver goes below the yellow line onto the apron to advance their position, NASCAR will penalize them. There was also a clause that NASCAR would consider penalizing the driver who potentially forced someone below the line.

In the early years, NASCAR adhered to this rule for understandable safety reasons. In the video above, Tony Stewart forced Regan Smith below the line, and NASCAR penalized Smith but not Stewart. This set off a lot of controversy, as Smith’s only other option was to wreck Stewart, which later led to the Carl Edwards Brad Keselowski incident at Talladega the next year.

However, the video below showcases that NASCAR has been slightly more lenient recently.

2013: MWR Penalties

In 2013, Michael Waltrip Racing went a bit too far in NASCAR’s eyes to ensure a Playoff spot for Martin Truex Jr. Clint Bowyer intentionally spun out to bring out a caution while Brian Vickers hit pit road on the ensuing restart to give Truex Jr. another spot. As a result, Truex Jr. made the Playoffs instead of Ryan Newman or Jeff Gordon.

In NASCAR’s eyes, this was obvious race manipulation, and, despite no rule against it, they elected to drop the hammer. Each MWR driver was docked 50 driver and owner points, and the organization was fined $300,000. NASCAR later made an even more controversial ruling by adding Jeff Gordon to the Playoffs as a 13th driver.

The Restart Rule

In 2009, NASCAR implemented shootout-style double-file restarts with the condition that the first-place driver must get to the line first. This led to difficult situations, such as Indianapolis in 2012 when Elliott Sadler, the second-place car, was pushed ahead of the race leader. Sadler was black-flagged despite pleading his case with NASCAR.

This rule came into play more in the early 2010s, with Jimmie Johnson likely losing a win at Dover in 2013 because of it. Obviously, NASCAR was trying to enforce the rule they implemented, but it produced some not so great moments. They got rid of the controversial clause of the rule that fall.

2022: NASCAR Takes a Cup Win Away For the First Time in Years

For years, NASCAR refused to take wins away from drivers even if they failed post-race inspection. However, NASCAR changed that policy after multiple wins had been tainted by inspection failures in the late 2010s. If a winner fails inspection post-race, they will be disqualified, and the win will be taken away.

Denny Hamlin was victim to this in 2022, as both he and second-place finisher Kyle Busch were disqualified. As a result, Chase Elliott won. It was the first time since 1960 that NASCAR had taken a win away.

Whether to protect the integrity of the sport, maintain power, follow the rules, or maintain competition, NASCAR has often been very strict throughout its history. Let us know on Discord or X what your take is, and don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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