NASCAR announced Monday in a statement that they will issue no penalties to the No. 20 NASCAR Cup Series team or Joe Gibbs Racing following Sunday’s penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway.
NASCAR reviewed a situation in Sunday’s race where Erik Jones did not pass teammate Denny Hamlin for position in the closing laps. NASCAR reviewed in-car radio chatter and on-track competition to reach its conclusion.
Statement from NASCAR:
“After conducting a review of the on-track competition and 20 team radio communication from Sunday’s race at Martinsville, NASCAR will not issue any penalties to the 20 team.”
It was also announced that Kevin Harvick will not be penalized for attempting to spin Kyle Busch on the last lap in an attempt to gain one more position.
From the rulebook:
7.5 PERFORMANCE OBLIGATION
.a NASCAR requires its Competitor(s) to race at 100% of their ability with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in the Event.
.b Any Competitor(s) 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 positions of the Event shall be subject to a penalty from NASCAR, as specified in Section 12 Violations and Disciplinary Action.
.c "Artificially Alter" shall be defined as actions by any Competitor(s) that show or suggest that the Competitor(s) did not race at 100% of their ability for the purpose of changing finishing positions in the Event, in NASCAR’s sole discretion.
Did NASCAR make the right call?
I think so.
Telling a driver not to pass a teammate differs from a teammate not in the Playoffs intentionally wrecking another competitor or Playoff driver. Or, in NASCAR’s judgment, crashing their own car to bring out a caution to help a teammate advance.
Where’s the line drawn?
The line gets crossed when a teammate not in the Playoffs wrecks another competitor in the Playoffs or wrecks themselves on purpose to bring out a yellow. Wrecking or wrecking someone else, under those circumstances, is a foolish thing to do.
What Harvick did on Sunday in my mind was 100% legal and going by NASCAR’s performance obligation, it encourages drivers to do so. Harvick was also on the same lap as Kyle Busch as he tried everything he could to gain one more valuable spot, penalizing himself in the end by spinning.
It’ll be interesting to see how this rule progresses. Does it get changed this offseason? It’s very doubtful as NASCAR designed the rule to protect the integrity of the sport. That said, the rule is admittingly difficult to enforce.