NASCAR’s decision to change rules draws mixed reaction from drivers

Earlier this week, NASCAR decided not to penalize Chicagoland Speedway winner Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson after their respective cars both flunked post-race tech on NASCAR’s laser inspection station, or LIS.

Both cars flunked the LIS at the lowest of three possible thresholds. Normally, that’s a 10-point penalty.

Because Truex won the race, the first event of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he automatically will advance to the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs. A 10-point penalty would not change that.

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However, a 10-point penalty for Johnson could — key word being "could" — mean the difference between him advancing or not advancing into Round 2.

So on Wednesday, NASCAR announced it would not penalize either driver, because the same penalty wouldn’t carry the same consequences for Truex and Johnson.

In addition, NASCAR changed its LIS rules. The low-level infractions are gone. Now, there’s only one level of penalty, what NASCAR’s calls a P4 penalty. Flunk the LIS now and a P4 penalty will essentially eliminate a competitor’s chances to win the championship.

Also, all cars still in the Chase will go through LIS after every race.

Faced with a potentially bad situation NASCAR made the best call it could under the circumstances. Not surprisingly, not everyone views the decision the same way.

Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, said Friday he’s conflicted about the news.

"Personally, I’m okay with the change," said Kenseth, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing. "I feel like maybe we should have changed it a couple months ago. I’m okay with that going forward, but I’m not so sure how I feel about no penalties because we all knew what the rules were last Sunday and what the penalties were if you broke those rules and then to come out a week later and say, ‘Okay, well, we changed our mind. There isn’t those penalties for the rules.’

"I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m okay with the rules being changes going forward," said Kenseth. "I’m always okay with whatever they want to come up with as rules as long as we all know what they are ahead of time and we all know what the penalties are ahead of time for breaking those rules."

Truex, who as a driver for Furniture Row Racing is Kenseth’s quasi-teammate, had a wholly different take on NASCAR’s actions.

"I think NASCAR made a really smart decision this week," said Truex. "I think that it’s definitely better for the sport as a whole. We can continue to talk about what great racing we’re having and not 10-thousandths off on a laser that’s inconsistent."

Carl Edwards, who like Kenseth drives for JGR, seemed to agree with Truex.

"They (NASCAR) police this sport the way that we have asked them to police it," said Edwards. "We want to know that we’re racing other cars evenly and that nobody has an advantage, but then you get put in these situations like what happened last week where the penalties are really unequal and I think NASCAR did a good job responding to that and I feel like we’re going to go through this Chase and we’re going to have as fair a Chase as we can and that’s good."

As to Truex’s inference that the laser system is inconsistent, one top driver weighed in on that topic earlier this week.

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