By Al Pearce, Crain News Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2013) — With the Daytona 500 coming up this weekend, NASCAR is back on the radar for new and old fans alike.
Longtime NASCAR writer Al Pearce has compiled a list of NASCAR rules and some of his own observations you may not be aware of.
1. Be careful when you change lanes:
David Ragan learned this one the hard way. The former Roush Fenway Racing driver blew a chance to win the 2011 Daytona 500 by going from the top to bottom lane and passing second-running Trevor Bayne before the start/finish line on a late-race restart. Mr. Ragan was summoned to pit road for a drive-through penalty and Bayne went on to win the 500. But Mr. Ragan did get a consolation. He came back at Daytona Beach in July of 2011 and won the Coke 400, the only Cup win of his career.
2. Don't go below the yellow line:
Highway drivers can cross single white lines to pass, but everyone knows you never cross a double yellow line. It's the same in NASCAR. The double yellow line near the asphalt edge at Daytona Beach and Talladega marks out-of-bounds. A driver may be black-flagged for crossing that line to gain ground. If forced below the line -- and if he gives back the gain -- the driver who forced the illegal move may be black-flagged. There is no double yellow line rule or an out-of-bounds area at any other track.
3. It costs money to do this stuff:
Teams pay a $4,300 "entry and inspection fee" to have their primary car approved for competition during a NASCAR weekend. If an inspected/approved car is wrecked beyond repair, the team must pay another $4,300 to have the backup car inspected and approved for competition. A "post-entry" fee of $5,675 applies if a team files an entry less than two weeks before the race date.
4. Don't skip out on the media:
Drivers who qualify or finish in the top three in any event are brought to the media center or press box for interviews. Even, for example, one who's just been wrecked out of an apparent sure win on the last lap. Drivers who petulantly refuse the post-qualifying and post-race interviews are fined by NASCAR. For some drivers—especially depending on the circumstance—it might be worth a few bucks to stiff those pesky boys and girls in the media room.
5. Pick a series (any series), but only one:
Many NASCAR drivers occasionally drop down or move up to race in a different series. They may want to help a teammate or get track time at an unfamiliar venue or suit a sponsor or—more often than not—because they simply love to race. But drivers can earn championship points in only one series. That's why Joe Nemechek came to the Daytona 500 without an owner-point provisional. He ran the 2012 Cup season, but earned no points because he was a "declared" Nationwide Series driver. Similarly, Kyle Busch doesn't get points for his Nationwide and Truck Series forays because he's a "declared" Cup driver. By the way: Mr. Nemechek finished 13th in his 150-miler on Thursday and thus earned his way into Sunday afternoon's 500.
6. Watch that five-minute clock:
Drivers in any qualifying line must pull forward and begin their run within five minutes of qualifying officials waving them forward. If a team has an unexpected issue in line or headed to the line, they must fix it in five minutes or lose their opportunity to qualify. If they have a provisional, they'll still make the show by starting from the rear. If they don't have a provisional and more than 43 cars are present, they'll go home.
7. Keeping it just among friends:
There was a long-ago time when drivers couldn't talk to anyone during a race. Eventually, they used primitive walkie-talkies to talk to crewmen in the pits. Later, they got two-way radios for talk between driver and spotter and/or crewmen. Recently, drivers even began talking to each other, planning strategy between teammates and rivals alike. Finally, NASCAR put its foot down, saying communications between rivals wasn't exactly in the spirit of competition. Now, as just a few years ago, drivers can talk only to their spotter or crewmen.
8. Come take a ride with us, fellow:
Drivers who can still get their wrecked car back to the garage generally aren't required to visit the infield medical center. (The thinking is that if you can drive, you can't be hurt all that badly.) But if a car is too badly damaged to drive, the driver is required to ride in an ambulance to the care center.
9. You want a number? You'll get what we give you:
NASCAR owns and assigns car numbers on an annual basis and reserves the right to revoke or transfer numbers to another owner/team. Teams resubmit their request for a car number during each winter offseason. Depending upon availability, their request is usually met for another year. The numbers aren't for sale and aren't eligible to be retired. Did you know? Even though it hasn't been used since 2001, team owner Richard Childress requests and pays to keep No. 3 reserved for his organization.
10. License, officer? Will this one do?
NASCAR drivers must have an annual license (at $2,420) from the sanctioning body, but not a valid state driver's license. Why is that? Well, imagine the outcry if Illinois or Arizona had to suspend Danica Patrick's street license a week before the Daytona 500. That's precisely why NASCAR drivers don't need a street license to race.
This report appeared in Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.