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Why Does the Damaged Vehicle Policy Exist in NASCAR?

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What’s Happening?

High speeds, a trophy at the end, and a shot at racing glory are all on the line during any given NASCAR race. With this, crashes and damage are bound to happen to any driver and team. In the past, teams had all race long to fix damage to their cars and send them back on track for the best finish possible. But since 2017, that has not been the case with NASCAR’s Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP). Some love it, others hate it, but the DVP has made it’s impact on the sport since its inception seven years ago. But how does it work? What can teams do and not do? And why does NASCAR have it in the first place?

  • If cars sustained damage or mechanical failures during a race, teams formerly had unlimited time to fix it on pit road, or take it to the garage, and come back on track.
  • However, safety concerns prompted NASCAR to make massive changes, implementing the DVP in 2017.
  • The DVP has evolved since its inception, while receiving a mix reception from both fans and industry member alike.

Life Before the DVP

During a race, if a car was damaged on track, teams were allowed unlimited time to fix and repair any damage, whether it was from a crash or a mechanical failure. This could be done either in the pits or in the garage. Teams would routinely spend hundreds of laps behind the wall fixing their car before sending it out on track with noticeable differences, such as missing body panels that resembled a Formula 1 car rather than a stock car. A famous example is Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol in 2014, when he raced with the whole left side of his car peeled off after a crash, with a number 88 made of orange tape on the door.

(Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

While having cars return to the track allowed for a team’s day to be somewhat salvaged, it did come with risks. Cars would come back on the track that clearly should have stayed in the garage. Vehicles were missing multiple body panels, not meeting minimum speeds (the slowest speed allowed to race), and in some cases, had debris fly off the cars, presenting safety issues for the competitors on the track. This prompted NASCAR to search for a solution to this problem, and in 2017, attacked it head-on with the Damaged Vehicle Policy.

What is the Damaged Vehicle Policy?

The Damaged Vehicle Policy is a set of rules stating that during a race, if a vehicle sustains damage in an accident, they have a certain window of time to fix the damage on pit road. If the team cannot fix the damage and meet minimum speed in three laps, then they will be black-flagged and forced out of the race. If the team meets minimum speed but still has damage, they can come back and fix it without any set time limit to do so.

Teams are not allowed to replace body panels that are damaged as a result of a crash. Only repairs, such as fixing sheet metal with tape and bear bond and cutting off damaged body panels, are permitted under the policy. If a car has to be towed following an accident, then it will DNF out of the race. If a driver speeds on pit road while coming for repairs, they will receive a 15-second penalty that goes against their DVP clock.

(Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

“We have a lot of cars that are going back on the track that end up in 38th position, for instance, that probably don’t need to be out there from a safety and competition aspect, Scott Miller, former NASCAR senior vice president of competition told NASCAR.com, “because they always tend to bring out more yellows with stuff falling off.”

The DVP has played a major role in the outcome of races since its inception. In 2022, during the final race of the regular season at Daytona, Ryan Blaney was fighting for a playoff berth but sustained significant damage after getting involved in a crash. His team was able to repair enough damage under the DVP and meet minimum speed, which allowed him to edge out Martin Truex Jr. for the final spot in the Cup Series playoffs.

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Evolution of the DVP

Since it was introduced, the DVP has gone through many evolutions. Originally, teams had five minutes to fix their initial damage and meet minimum speed, but in 2018, NASCAR increased that limit to six minutes. This would stay until 2022, when an additional four minutes were added to the policy, giving teams 10 minutes to fix their damage and meet minimum speed (double the limit they had in 2017).

With the introduction of the Next Gen Car in 2022, more time was needed to fix damage due to the intricate nature of the new car. In collaboration with the teams, this was cited by NASCAR as the reason for giving teams additional time on the DVP Clock. The time increase was added before the Southern 500, the first race of the Cup Series playoffs.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Reaction to the DVP

Like many NASCAR rules, the DVP is seen as controversial among both fans and drivers alike. In 2023, at Texas Motor Speedway, Todd Gilliland DNF’d from the race after his car couldn’t make it to pit road under its own power following a crash. Gilliland expressed his frustration with the rule, stating that his team could’ve come in to change tires and continue on in the race.

Following a crash at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Xfinity Series, Austin Hill showed his frustration after the team failed to repair the car as the DVP clock expired.

Many fans believe that the DVP is counteractive to NASCAR safety argument. With a set time limit, teams will rush to fix damage that can become dangerous on track without proper time to address their issues. Fans in favor of the DVP say that there are fewer cars on track that can cause a hazard due to significant damage, and with the set time limit, it puts necessary pressure on the teams to make repairs during crucial moments in the race or the season.

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Conclusion

Repairing damaged race cars is a common sight in NASCAR and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. The Damaged Vehicle Policy has changed how teams can do so over the past few seasons. There will always be questions about policy. Does a set time limit do more harm than good? Should cars be allowed back on track multiple laps down after being involved in a crash? It is fascinating to think about the what-ifs with the DVP. Would Joey Logano be the 2015 Cup champion if the rules were implemented two years prior?

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The Damaged Vehicle Policy exists to keep cars that have significant damage off the race track. Repairing damage will always be a part of NASCAR. The way they are done, however, will continue to evolve as the sport does the same.

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