AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR unveiled a revamped penalty system Tuesday that for the first time will define specific offenses with pre-determined penalties.
The new "Deterrence System" classifies six different levels of penalties, with fines and point deductions increasing as the infractions become more severe. The new system will be applied only to technical infractions; NASCAR will still handle behavioral offenses individually.
The structure also allows the sanctioning body to hit repeat offenders with a multiplier that could increase penalties by 50 percent. NASCAR’s previous penalty system did not tie pre-determined sanctions to specific offenses.
"Our goal is to be more effective, fair and transparent," said Steve O’Donnell, senior vice president of racing operations. "It’s never our intent to penalize, but in order to keep the playing field fair for everyone, we recognize that strong rules need to be in place."
NASCAR has also removed chief appellate officer John Middlebrook. The retired General Motors executive has been replaced by Bryan Moss, president emeritus of Gulfstream Aerospace. Middlebrook had overturned or modified some key NASCAR decisions, including a penalty to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and Penske Racing last year.
"I wanted to clearly state that Bryan’s appointment is not a result of recent appeals outcomes or because of the changes to the Chase," O’Donnell said. "John did a great job for us, but Bryan will take over as the final appeals officer."
NASCAR also has removed track promoters from its appeals panel in order to keep them from having to rule on a team while also needing that team’s members to help promote races.
"We have probably put some people in some tough spots in the past," O’Donnell said. "You won’t see national series promoters as part of that panel and you’ll see more industry experts participate in that role in the future."
Another change to the penalty system is in the appeals process: Penalized teams will be allowed to see NASCAR’s presentation during the first appeal. Previously, each side presented its case without the other side in the room.
Parties will now submit summaries of issues in advance of the hearing and it will be NASCAR’s burden to prove that a penalty violation occurred. During second and final appeals, the burden will shift to the team to prove the panel decision was incorrect.
The biggest changes are to the penalty system, which is now broken into six classes. Minor technical infractions in the P1 class could lead to lost track time and other relatively light punishments; violations affecting the internal workings and performance of the engine in P6, on the other hand, could lead to the loss of 150 points, a fine of at least $150,000 and suspensions.
If P5 and P6 infractions are found in post-race inspection, wins would not be eligible to be used to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship or to advance through the Chase rounds. And if the same car repeats an offense in the same category during the season, the penalty increases 50 percent above the normal standard.
"We believe the new system is easily understood and specifically lays out exactly what disciplinary action will be taken depending upon the type of technical infraction," said vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "More importantly, we believe we have strengthened our system to ensure even more competitive racing."