NASCAR rules and regulations
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The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) makes and enforces numerous rules and regulations that transcend all racing series.
NASCAR issues a different rule book for each racing series; however, rule books are published exclusively for NASCAR members and are not made available to the public. Still, many of the rules, such as the scoring system, have been widely publicized both by NASCAR and the media.
- 1 Car livery
- 2 Special Rules for Combination Races
- 3 Car and driver changes
- 4 Caution flag and restart procedure
- 5 Championship points system
- 6 Flags
- 7 Qualifying procedure
- 8 Penalties
- 9 Pit road
- 10 Safety
- 11 Testing
- 12 Weekend schedule
- 13 References
Each car is required to display its number on each door of the car, and on its roof. The front of the car and bottom of the rear bumper is required to match the decal specifications of the car manufacturer, and each car is required to display a series of NASCAR sponsor decals just to the left of each door and on the front fender. These contingency decals represent series sponsors and bonus money teams earn during the race. Except in the Sprint Cup Series, the series sponsor's logo is displayed on top of the windshield. In the Sprint Cup Series, the windshield has the manufacturer's logo, with the driver's surname (and first name -- Kurt or Kyle in the case of the Busch brothers, or suffixes -- Jr. for Earnhardt, Stenhouse, and Truex, if necessary) placed between the manufacturer's logos on the top of the windshield.
Outside of these requirements, teams may paint the car and place sponsor logos in NASCAR-approved locations. Teams must submit all paint and graphics schemes and all sponsor identity to NASCAR in advance for approval. In the Sprint Cup Series, teams are allowed to place a single sponsor's logo above the rear windshield as well.
Teams apply to NASCAR for the use of a car number. NASCAR legally owns and controls all rights to car numbers. When drivers change teams, the team owner usually retains the number. The defending series champion almost never adopts car number 1, in fact there has only been one series champion to ever run the number 1 (Ted Musgrave, 2005 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series). Only one number, #61, in the Whelen Modified Tour, has been retired, in memory of nine-time series champion Richie Evans, who was killed at Martinsville Speedway practicing for the final race of the 1985 season.
Teams can run numbers 0 to 99 (as well as 00 to 09), but no two cars can display the same number. Teams that run 00 to 09 are listed as 100 to 109 for NASCAR's scoring purposes. Except for those numbers (which have been used for full-time teams), part-time teams may be assigned a three-digit number for scoring purposes only (such as #141 and #241). If two such teams arrive with the same two digit number, the team higher in championship points prevails, and the other team will be forced to change their number for the race.
Special Rules for Combination Races
During NASCAR's combination races (currently the two K&N Pro Series (East and West) and the two Whelen Modified Tours (Modified and Southern Modified) running such events), where there is one race, but points are scored for both series, special rules apply as two teams will have the same number.
The fastest lap time in qualifying determines which team will have the number for the race, and which team must temporarily change the number for the race. For example, during the 1991 Busch Series season, there were selected races in the Northeast (Loudon, Nazareth, Dover, Oxford) where both the Busch Grand National (now Nationwide) and Busch Grand National North (now K&N Pro East) Series raced in combination races. North team Ricky Craven (also drove his car) and Grand National team Don Beverly Racing (Jimmy Hensley driving) both used #25. Whoever had the faster qualifying time in each race used #25. Craven used #28 at Oxford when Hensley had the faster time, while Hensley used #5 when Craven had the faster time at Loudon. Both teams, however, scored respective owner points for the #25 in their respective series.
Car and driver changes
Teams must use the same car from the start of the first practice session through the end of the race. Teams that crash a car in practice or qualifying may go to a backup car, but racing a different car than qualified results in that car having to start at the rear of the field.
Engine and transmission changes are prohibited during a race weekend. Nationwide and Truck Series engines must last two race weekends, excluding restrictor plate races. Changing either will result in starting at the rear of the field. Transmission changes are allowed during road course weekends and during the race weekends at Pocono Raceway. In addition, during Speedweeks at Daytona teams are allowed one free engine change between the qualifying races and final practice session.
Driver changes are permitted, however starting the race with a different driver than whom qualified the car will result in the car starting at the rear of the field. Driver changes during the race during pit stops are permitted, but the driver who starts the race earns all points, statistics, and purse money.
Caution flag and restart procedure
When the yellow caution flag is displayed and the yellow caution lights around the track come on, "the field is frozen" at the moment of caution. Racing ends immediately and cars are to slow to pace car (safety car) speed. Cars will line up behind the pace car in the order of which they passed the last scoring loop on track (there are as many as 18 loops around the track, although the one at the start/finish line is the only one that counts for official race statistics). The exception to this rule is if the race will not be restarted, in which case NASCAR will use Instant Replay to determine the finishing order.
When the caution comes out, the pit lane is immediately closed. Entering pit road when it is closed is a penalty of restarting at the end of the longest line.
During a "quickie yellow" all cars may enter pit road the first time by when it is opened. After the pit stops, the first car one lap down at the moment of caution (known as the free pass car) will get to go around the pace car and start the race at the end of the longest line, but back on the lead lap.
During a full yellow, only lead lap cars may pit the first time by the pit road. Once the lead lap cars who have decided to pit have entered pit road, the free pass car will be sent around the pace car to earn their lap back. The next time by, all cars (including the free pass car) may pit.
Cars may pit as often as they wish at the expense of track position, but the free pass car is limited to taking fuel only at the first pit stop opportunity. If the free pass car is judged to have caused the caution (intentionally or not) there will be no free pass car.
At the one to go signal, the pace car will turn its lights off. At this point, any car that is ahead of the leader of the race will be waved around the rear of the field. These cars are not permitted to pit until after the green flag comes back out and the race has resumed. The field will then "double up" for the double file restart. The leader of the race gets lane choice, but the 3rd place car (and odd positions on back) will always start on the inside line. The restart order is always this: Lead Lap Cars > Cars 1 or more laps down > Free Pass Car > Wave Arounds > Cars who have received a penalty. Once the pace car has pulled into the pits, there is a restart "box" consisting of lines painted on the outside wall of the track. The leader of the race is to begin accelerating during this box to resume the race. If they do not, the flagman controls the restart. The 2nd place car may not be ahead of the leader at the green flag, however either car on the front row may cross the Start/Finish line first. Passing is not permitted until the leader of the race crosses the start-finish line. Lane changes are also not permitted until after the driver crosses the Start/Finish line.
Championship points system
|Lead a lap||1|
|Most laps led||1|
For all series in NASCAR, there is both a drivers and an owners championship, with the system based on finishing position, equal in both championships. Since 2011 in National Series competition and 2012 in regional series competition, the points system has been a one point per position system, with the winner of the race getting three bonus points. In all series except the Whelen All-American Series, a driver who leads a lap during the race earns one bonus point. (The only place leading counts is the start/finish line.) The driver who leads to most laps earns an additional point. Since it is impossible to win the race without leading the last lap, the winner of the race is guaranteed 47 points. Also starting in 2011, drivers must declare which series they will earn championship points and cannot earn points in other series than the series they have declared. Regardless of the series, owners earn the same number of points as their driver, but if the driver cannot score points in that series, the owner can score the points.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Sprint Cup is NASCAR's version of a playoff system. After the 26th race of the season, the top 10 drivers in standings qualify. Each of these drivers has their points reset to 2000 plus 3 bonus points for every win during NASCAR's "regular season." In addition, the two drivers with the most wins, among those from 11th-20th in the standings and with at least one win, qualify for the Chase as two Wild Card drivers. These drivers also have their points reset to 2000, but receive no win bonus points.
In the NASCAR Nationwide Series, there are only 40 competitors, so the last place finisher will earn 4 points. Similarly in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where there are only 36 competitors, the last place driver will earn 8 points. In some circumstances, drivers who did not qualify may earn a sliding scale of points based on qualifying speed or results (3, 2, 1 for Nationwide or 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for Truck).
Teams must submit an entry form to NASCAR 13 days prior to the event with the race's entry fee, or they will be ineligible for points.
Like most other sanctioning bodies, NASCAR will use flags to provide the drivers with information regarding track conditions. NASCAR, not adhering to the FIA rules (despite NASCAR being a member club of ACCUS, the U.S. motor racing sporting authority and representative to the FIA World Motor Sport Council), does not use the flag system outlined in the FIA International Sporting Code. Major differences include that in NASCAR (and other championships in North America) the white flag is used to signal that the leader is on the last lap, in ISC regulated events (such as Formula One and most European championships) it is used to signal that a slower car is on track. Also, the blue flag specified in the FIA ISC does not have a diagonal stripe, and the black flag means that a driver is disqualified.
|The green flag indicates that the race has started or restarted. It is shown by the official in the flag stand when the leader enters the designated restart zone, which is located a short distance before the finish line.|
|The yellow flag or caution flag indicates a hazard on the track — most often an accident, but sometimes also for debris, light rain, emergency vehicles entering (usually on short tracks with no tunnel) or a scheduled competition yellow. All cars must slow down and follow the pace car. Passing is not allowed under the yellow flag. NASCAR does not use the "local yellow" flag; cautions apply to the entire circuit.|
|The red flag indicates that the race has been halted. This may happen due to a large accident, inclement weather, track repair (such as damaged catch fencing), or for severe track cleaning (such as the final laps, when NASCAR may clean the entire track to ensure the race can finish under green flag conditions, and to do so with the track clean of oil from engine failure or crashes). Cars may be ordered into the pits or on the track depending on conditions; red flags for inclement weather generally result in all cars parking in the pits. Race teams are not permitted to repair or adjust cars during red flag conditions. However, drivers may exit their cars, and they may be provided with water, food or other necessities. Some drivers take advantage of the down time in unique ways: Brad Keselowski famously sent a tweet from his car during a red flag for a track fire at the 2012 Daytona 500.|
|The red flag with a yellow cross is shown to indicate pit road is closed. This will be shown at the entrance of pit road when the yellow flag is displayed. When all the cars have gathered behind the pace car, pit road will open and this flag will be withdrawn. A red and green strobe light system is also used at the entrance and exit of pit road. Cars may still enter the pits while this flag is displayed, but they must drop behind all other cars which wait for the pits to open, and the drop must occur while still under the existing caution. This is a frequent choice for cars with damage or flat tires, or in any situation where the loss in position is favored over the risk of remaining on the track and possibly not being able to return to the pits.|
|The white flag indicates one lap remaining in the race. More specifically, it indicates that all drivers will be scored for at most 1 more lap after passing the white flag.|
|The checkered flag indicates that a race or qualifying is over.|
|The black flag indicates that a driver must pit immediately. This flag is shown if the driver or pit crew violates a rule (e.g., speeding through the pits), if the vehicle has sufficient mechanical damage that it is a hazard to other drivers, if the vehicle cannot maintain the minimum required speed (varies by track; typically disclosed in the pre-race drivers' meeting), or if a driver has been driving overly aggressively. In the event of a failure of the in-car radio, NASCAR will, at the team's request, display the black flag to signal a driver to pit, one time only.
A black flag shown with a red flag indicates the conclusion of a practice session.
|The black flag with a white cross indicates a driver is no longer being scored. This is normally shown if a driver does not respond to a black flag within three laps.|
|The blue flag with a yellow stripe is shown to warn slow drivers of faster cars approaching. NASCAR rarely black-flags drivers for not obeying this flag; however, it is frequently displayed and warnings may be given if it is blatant (such as a lapped driver blocking for a teammate). NASCAR uses the yellow diagonal stripe on the blue flag because the flag is usually displayed on top of the starter's stand, and not at eye-level to the driver from the track.|
|The blue flag is used to indicate an area on a road course where drivers should be careful due to slow or stopped cars or a partially blocked track. It is not used on ovals. If a full-course caution is required, NASCAR will use the yellow flag to indicate this. Unlike the local caution commonly used in other racing series, the blue flag is not a "local caution" and does not prohibit overtaking; rather, it merely tells drivers to be careful. Safety workers will not leave their designated spots and enter the track under this flag. In the wake of a fatal corner worker crash at Daytona International Speedway in 2004 in a non-NASCAR sanctioned (but using track workers) race, NASCAR has become reluctant in recent years to use local cautions, opting to use the full-course yellow caution flag instead if any safety team members have to approach the track in an attempt to give safety workers a safer environment to inspect debris by forcing all cars under pace car speed, instead of race speed, to remove debris. The rationale is most of the field will be packed together while cleanup is happening, instead of being spread over the entire track.|
|The yellow and red flag indicates that there is debris on the track. This flag is only used on road courses.|
In most cases, qualifying consists of single car runs. Each car will take two timed laps, with the faster lap counting as that car's official time. The second lap is considered optional, and cars may choose to only run one lap. Qualifying order is determined randomly.
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the top 36 positions are determined by timed laps. Positions 37-42 are then awarded based on owner points to those cars not already qualified. The final position is reserved for a past series champion. Each past champion can use this past champions' provisional up to 6 times per season. If the past champions' provisional is not needed (all past champions are already qualified) then the position goes to the first team in owner points not already qualified for the race.
In the Nationwide Series, the top 30 cars in owner points are guaranteed to start the race, while the top 25 trucks in the Camping World Truck Series are also locked into the field. The past champions' provisional also applies to these series.
At road course races, cars are grouped into groups of 5-6 cars based on practice speeds. Groups go on track slowest to fastest based on practice speeds. In each group, each car is sent on track 5-10 seconds apart from each other. Once the first car crosses the start-finish line, a 5 minute clock begins and drivers are permitted to complete as many timed laps as they can in that five-minute period.
Special race qualifying procedures
The Daytona 500 has a unique qualifying procedure. Time trials, held one week before the race, determine the front row and set the lineup for the Duel races held on Thursday. The finishing order of these races determine positions 3-30 (odd numbered positions in race 1, even numbered in race 2). Positions 31-36 revert to qualifying speeds, and 37-43 revert to provisionals as listed above.
The Sprint Unlimited non-points race determines its starting lineup based on a fan vote. All-Star race qualifying consists of the combined time of 3 laps and a 4 tire pit stop.
The Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway for the Camping World Truck Series is also unique. The top 20 in team points, not 25 as in other races, are exempt. Five qualifying races, each with four exempt trucks, will be held. The top non-exempt truck in each qualifying race advances, in addition to the four exempt trucks. Those that fail to qualify will have one last chance race, where the top four trucks advance to the feature. The Champion's Provisional is used if necessary, otherwise the fifth place truck advances.
The following is a list of NASCAR penalties. Penalties listed as "NASCAR Discretion" can result in a simple restart at the tail of the field, a multiple lap penalty, or disqualification.
- Pitting before pit road is open (Section 10-4B in Rule Book) requires the driver to restart at the tail end of the line.
- Pitting out of order (10-4B) also requires restarting at the end of the line.
- Car/truck must enter pit road in single file (9-15C) ... this results in a drive-through penalty under green or the driver restarting at the back of the field under caution.
- Speeding while entering or exiting pit road (9-15D) leads to a drive-through penalty if done under green flag conditions, or the driver restarting at the end of the field.
- All passing on pit road must be to the outside on entry, and cars cannot drive through more than 3 pit boxes to enter their pit stall (9-15C). The penalties are the same as for speeding.
- Crewmember(s) over the wall too soon (9-15E), results in the same penalties as speeding.
- Car/truck pitting out of the assigned pit box (9-15F) will result in the car being held for a one lap penalty.
- Use of extension poles are limited/not self illuminated (9-15G), having too many crewmembers in contact with pit service area (9-15H), crewmembers returning from the equipment side of the wall (9-15H), not carrying the front air wrench back to the pit wall side of the car/truck (9-15J), using more than two (2) air wrenches during one pit stop (9-15J), non-compliant refueling, tossing or throwing the fuel filler/equipment (9-15M), or rolling a tire(s) beyond the center of pit road (9-15P) result in the same penalties as speeding.
- Improperly installed lugnuts (9-15N) will result in the driver being called back to the pits to replace the parts.
- Removing equipment from assigned pit area (9-15O) leads to a stop and go penalty.
- Running over/under equipment (9-15O) is a penalty administered at NASCAR's discretion.
- Hand pushing the car/truck more than 3 pit boxes to restart it (9-15Q) requires the car to restart at the back of the field.
- Running the stop and go sign/light (10-4C) ... is administered at NASCAR's discretion.
- Going above the blend line exiting the pits (9-11) results in a drive-through penalty.
- Refueling the car/truck before the affected car/truck receives the green flag on the racetrack or does not complete the designated race distance (competition yellow) (9-6D and 9-6E) results in at least a one lap penalty.
- Passing the caution car/truck (10-4D) ... leads to a one lap penalty.
- Pulling up to pit (9-15A) -- (drivers must maintain position in relation to field or face penalty) ... leads to a one lap penalty.
- Jumping any green flag (10-2A) results in a pass-through pit penalty.
- Passing after turn three (3) on the "One to Go" signal (9-11) or passing on a start or restart (before start/finish line) (9-11) ... is a pass-through penalty.
- Disobeying NASCAR request (9-11) ... PENALTY: NASCAR Discretion
- Intentionally causing a caution (9-11) ... PENALTY: NASCAR Discretion
- Verbal abuse to a NASCAR official (9-11) ... PENALTY: NASCAR Discretion
- Disobeying Black Flag (10-6A) ... PENALTY: NASCAR Discretion
- Safety violation ... PENALTY: NASCAR Discretion
- Commitment Line Violation (9-15B) ... leads to a drive-through penalty.
NASCAR conducts a complete technical inspection prior to the first practice session, before and after qualifying, and before the race. A quick safety inspection is also completed prior to each practice session after the first. Penalties for car violations are typically announced the Tuesday after a race, and can range from a simple fine to an indefinite suspension and loss of points. After a race, the top 5 finishers, one other random car, and the first car failing to finish the race not due to an accident will have their cars inspected. The winner, random car, and first car out also have their cars and engines taken by NASCAR for further inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. Further, there is one random race per year where NASCAR confiscates 15-20 engines and takes them to NASCAR's Research and Development Center for evaluation, comparison, and to help decide on future rule changes.
NASCAR does have a substance abuse policy requiring random testing of drivers, crew members, and officials. Those who have violated the policy are suspended indefinitely immediately and given the opportunity to enroll in NASCAR's Road to Recovery program to be re-instated into NASCAR.
During a race, teams must pit several times for refueling and new tires. Teams are permitted 6 crew members over the wall at the start of the race: 2 tire changers, 2 tire carriers, a jackman, and a gas man. Once NASCAR gives the OK (usually once the leader begins lapping cars), a 7th crew member is permitted only to service the driver/windshield.
There is an established pit road speed limit for each race. Since NASCAR cars do not have speedometers, the first pace lap of each race is run at pit road speed so drivers can get a tachometer reading for pit speed. There are a variety of other safety rules (see penalties above) that must be followed.
Racing Rules Two hours before the race, drivers and crew chiefs attend a mandatory driver's meeting. Failure to attend the meeting will force drivers to start at the rear of the field.
Roughly a half hour to 45 minutes before the race start time, driver introductions will be held. Failure to attend will also require the driver to start at the rear of the field.
At the designated start time (in most cases, 1:00 PM ET, 3:00 PM ET, or 7:30 PM ET for Sprint Cup Races), a pre-race invocation is given, followed by the singing of the national anthem. Once the anthem is complete, drivers have exactly 5 minutes to get in their cars with all the safety equipment fastened and ready to go. At the end of the 5 minutes, the grand marshal for the race will deliver the line "Drivers, start your engines!" at which point each car must start their engine. The cars sit on pit road, engines running, for approximately 3 minutes before heading on track for 3 pace laps. At the end of those 3 pace laps, the field will partake in a rolling start.
If the last lap of the race is started under caution, the race will be extended per NASCAR's Green-White-Checkered Procedure. Once the track is clear, the field will be given the green flag with 2 laps remaining. If there is another crash/caution, then the race will continue to be extended. However, if the leader of the race at anytime takes the white flag (starting the last lap of the race), the next flag (caution or checkered) will end the race (although competitors are required to cross the start/finish line at pace car speed to be scored in their position at the moment of caution). There is a maximum of three green-white-checker restarts-to date the maximum has only been reached once in Sprint Cup competition (2010 Spring Talladega race, which finished under green) and three times in Nationwide competition.
After the race, the winning driver (and, if at the end of the season, championship winning driver) will usually complete a series of burnouts in celebration of their victory, before heading to victory lane for more celebrations and post-race interviews.
Since late 2001, the HANS Device has been required for usage of all drivers. Since 2003, helmets have been required for pit crew members as well. Drivers and pit crew members must also wear firesuits. Drivers are required to use carbon fiber seats and headrests for strength and durability. Cars have also been redesigned since the death of Dale Earnhardt and after spectacular crashes to reflect new discoveries and developments in safety.
All oval tracks in NASCAR National Series run the SAFER Barrier and other soft wall technology to lessen impacts.
After a series of flips and dangerous crashes in the 1980s, NASCAR began requiring all cars to run a restrictor plate at Daytona and Talladega. The restrictor plate limits air into the engine, reducing horsepower and speed at these tracks from 230-240 mph to 195-200 mph. At these races, in addition to the restrictor plate, there are a variety of other technical rules and regulations to keep the cars stable and on the track. In addition to these technical rules, restrictor plate races are the only races where drivers are prohibited from using the apron of the track to execute a pass. A double yellow line separates the track from the racing surface, leading many to call the rule the "Yellow Line Rule." Driving under the line to advance your position is subject to a drive-through penalty, or if the foul occurs on the last lap that car will be regulated to the last car on the lead lap in official race results.
NASCAR sanctions an annual 4-day pre-season test at Daytona International Speedway in January for all teams. After that test, each organization is allowed to do 4 2-day tests. Each test must be at a different race track. Rookie drivers are allocated an additional test.
Tire supplier Goodyear is allowed unlimited testing and can ask whichever teams it wants to complete the test. Usually Goodyear chooses the top 3 finishers from the previous year's event to run the test. However, Goodyear does stage a full-field tire test at Indianapolis in late June/early July in preparations for the Brickyard 400.
The Sprint Cup Series usually runs one day of practice and qualifying on Friday, followed by a second day of practice on Saturday morning, followed by the race. If running a Saturday night race, the second day of practice is not held. During impound races, the three-day schedule is maintained, with qualifying taking place of Saturday practice.
The Nationwide Series will run practice on Friday, followed by qualifying a few hours before the race on Saturday. If a race is on Friday (or the schedule is otherwise compacted for other reasons), it is not uncommon for practice, qualifying, and the race to all be held on the same day. The Camping World Truck Series usually does this.
Rain can and often does affect the weekend schedule. When it does, qualifying is routinely cancelled and the starting lineup is set by practice speeds. If practice is also cancelled, then points will set the starting lineup (previous year's points for the first 3 races).
- NASCAR.com FAQ/Customer service Retrieved 1/29/07
- "CUP: Pocono Race Under Red Flag". Nascar.speedtv.com. 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
- "Red Flag For Flaming Jet Dryer". Nascar.about.com. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
- "NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski talks about his famous Daytona tweet – ESPN". Espn.go.com. 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
-  Article on blue flag
- Newberry, Paul (2004-02-10). "Track worker killed during Dash race at Daytona". Usatoday.Com. Retrieved 2012-08-22.