Laura is an freelance writer living in Florida. She has a Master's degree in English.
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, major points loss and 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.
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 were 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 September 2010
Clint Bowyer received a 150 point reduction and $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.
Part of the appeal of sports are the uncensored moments, the moments of passion, 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.
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
- Clint Bowyer feeling good despite 2010 New Hampshire mishap - ESPN
Clint Bowyer was kissing the finish line the last time we visited New Hampshire. A few days later, he wanted NASCAR to kiss something else. How does he feel now back at the scene of the crime?
- Comparing Kenseth penalty's place in history
- Paul Wolfe on Probation for NASCAR Rules Violation - autoevolution
Paul Wolfe on Probation for NASCAR Rules Violation - autoevolution
- The inconsistency of 'Actions Detrimental to Stock Car racing' - SBNation.com
In Major League Baseball, players often know what a brawl, intentional beaning and bumping an umpire will warrant. NASCAR fines are not as clear cut and often erratic to the real detriment of stock car auto racing.
- Yes, race fans, there is a NASCAR rulebook. - NASCAR News | FOX Sports on MSN
Penalties for breaking any of the guidelines are somewhat subjective, the rules are designed with one purpose in mind, maintaining a level playing field. Yes, race fans, there is a NASCAR rulebook.
© 2013 L C David
G. Larson on August 25, 2019:
NASCAR already has cookie cutter cars, now they want cookie cutter drivers.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on April 21, 2018:
Very interesting, indeed! I believe NASCAR has traveled too far from its roots! To wit:
1) NASCAR means, National Association (for) Stock Car Auto Racing
2) It is not only this rule, but the wide assortment of nit-picky rules that have come about to govern what engines may be used, what frame sizes and spacings of suspension components, ad nauseum.
Many fans do not realize it, but NASCAR, in its infinite "wisdom," has seen fit to specify that all the engines and chassis have to be virtually the same. So, it does not matter whether the body of the car is a Ford, Chevy, or (ugh) Toyota, their engines and bodies are all interchangeable.
3) NASCAR began as a competitive sport, and much of the competition has been taken out by this engine nonsense.
4) Many improvements, whether of performance or safety, have come to us from the race track. If drivers are so restricted that they cannot use any variations, then that avenue of improvements or discoveries is now closed to consumer-level vehicles.
5) Related to 3 & 4, While driver skill certainly still comes into play, the so-called 'leveling of the playing field' takes away a good deal of the enjoyment for the fans, who now know they are not watching for which is the better car in the hands of the best driver.
6) NASCAR had its beginnings in the 'bad old days' of prohibition and outrunning the sheriff while running stills in the backwoods. It was always AMERICAN automobiles. The fact that they are now allowing Toyotas, (despite the aforementioned engine clones), is an outrage to many long-time fans!
So, it's not only "Rule 12-1" that's a problem with the "New NASCAR," but many of its ill-advised new rules.
Thanks for a great read! (I side with the drivers!)