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NASCAR Rulebook Section 12: Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing

Laura is a freelance writer living in Florida. She has a master's degree in English.

Why is rule 12 applied to every mishap?

Why is rule 12 applied to every mishap?

Nascar Rule Book Section 12.1

Rule 12-1 in the somewhat secret-but-not NASCAR rulebook simply states that a driver can face appealable penalties for actions detrimental to stock car racing.

But the interpretation of that rule is nefarious at best and seems to be applied to a wide range of infractions from minor to race-altering.

If you review the driver and team infractions over the past few years, nearly every one of them has this rule included among the list of infractions.

The overuse of the rule has made NASCAR look silly and afraid to get its feelings hurt.

Here is a look at some recent incidents where a driver faced the 12-1 penalty and what it means.

Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing

Each of the incidents below originally had the "actions detrimental to stock car racing" penalty attached to their infractions.

Note the wide range of incidents and issues that this rule covers.

Clint Bowyer, September 2013

At the final 2013 race before the Chase, Clint Bowyer, in an attempt to secure a spot in the Chase for the Cup for his teammate Martin Truex Jr. spun out his car, causing a late race caution that reset the lineup and gave the Chase spot to Truex. After reviewing the footage, Nascar determined that Bowyer had caused the wreck on purpose and his action was deemed detrimental to stock car racing.

Truex was removed from the Chase, and Ryan Newman took his spot.

Matt Kenseth, April 2013

During a post-race inspection, Kenseth was discovered to have an engine that did not meet NASCAR standards.

One of the engine rods was a few grams lighter than it was supposed to be.

The team and owner were to face race suspension and major points loss and had to pay monetary damages.

The team countered that the engine had actually been created by Toyota and the team had nothing to do with the engine part not meeting inspection.

They also claimed the minor amount of difference could not have been the determining factor in his win.

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Denny Hamlin criticized the Gen 6 Cars.  NASCAR penalized him.

Denny Hamlin criticized the Gen 6 Cars. NASCAR penalized him.

Denny Hamlin, March 2013

After a frustrating finish at the Phoenix race, Denny Hamlin had the audacity to criticize NASCAR's new Generation 6 cars.

“I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Gen-5 cars; this is more like what the Generation 5 was at the beginning,” Denny noted.

NASCAR cited him with the rule and fined him $25,000.

Hamlin refused to pay the fine, and it was taken out of his winnings.

However, when Keselowski levied complaints against NASCAR's treatment of his team (which cost him race position), NASCAR indicated that there would be no penalties against Keselowski because he had freedom of speech and freedom to criticize.

Kurt Busch, November 2011

After Kurt Busch lost his transmission early in the race, he is heard repeatedly cursing and caught on camera flipping off the reporter before an interview in the garage.

After NASCAR applied the penalty, Busch's team released a statement saying that his emotions got the better of him.

Curse word laced rants are nothing new in NASCAR but apparently, Busch's rant crossed some line to raise the bar and incite the penalty.

Bobby Labonte, David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr., October 2011

Each of the drivers at the Talladega race was discovered to have modified windshields that did not meet the NASCAR standards.

The teams were all fined, a crew chief was suspended, and the drivers had to change out windshields before the race.

Clint Bowyer received a major penalty for what he contends was a minor infraction.

Clint Bowyer received a major penalty for what he contends was a minor infraction.

Clint Bowyer September 2010

Clint Bowyer received a 150 point deduction and a $150,000 fine after NASCAR cited that his car was improperly mounted on the frame.

According to the team owner, the winning car was off a fraction of an inch and passed post-race inspection. It was only later that the problem was discovered.

According to ESPN, Bowyer noted that Kyle Busch had a similar issue with his car the week before and did not receive penalties.

"He got a slap on the wrist, and we got a season-ending penalty," Bowyer said. "But it doesn't matter what I think."

The Rule to Use When You Don't Know What Rule to Use

So this rule's catch-all nature seems to allow it to be applied to everything from equipment violations to cursing.

But breaking down the very words of the rule itself makes one wonder what is actually detrimental to the sport.

Controversy is good for NASCAR views and ratings, and one thing all these infractions have is controversy.

If people think that a frustrated driver may get caught in a moment of temper loss, they are going to tune in.

Parts of the appeal of sports are the uncensored moments, the moments of passion, and the moments of emotions: they make a sport human and connect the audience with the athlete.

This rule should be held in reserve for only the most grievous of infractions; when the defamation is majorly exaggerated, false or the infractions threaten the safety of other drivers and fans.

Is NASCAR getting too picky?  Do all these rules violate the true spirit of the sport?

Is NASCAR getting too picky? Do all these rules violate the true spirit of the sport?

Needs Clearer Definition

The major criticism of the rule is its interpretation and application.

Drivers and fans don't seem to know what is acceptable and what is "detrimental to the sport."

Sometimes the same infraction can cause one driver to receive no penalties, one to receive a minor one and one to receive major penalties.

According to Matt Weaver of SB Nation, the nefarious nature of the rule makes it frustrating. His suggestion of clearer guidelines being set is a good one.

But for now, NASCAR seems to enjoy having rule 12-1 as a catch-all for offenses they don't like but aren't sure what to call them.

Carl Edwards "Actions Detrimental To Stock Car Racing"

References and Further Reading

© 2013 L C David

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