Helton: More Rule Book Clarity Needed

Rule Book

Asked if that meant the 192-page NASCAR Sprint Cup Rule Book needs to be thicker next year, Helton said: “It doesn’t necessarily have to be thicker (but) to be more clear. I think there is evidence of NASCAR, particularly in the last decade or so, to try to be more clear with things. Every experience we go through gives us the ability to understand what more clear means.’’

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DARLINGTON, S.C. - NASCAR President Mike Helton says the sanctioning body needs to clarify its rule book after penalties in two cases were reduced this week on appeal.

An appeals panel reduced or rescinded most of the penalties to Joe Gibbs Racing after a connecting rod in Matt Kenseth’s winning engine at Kansas did not meet the minimum weight of 525 grams. That came a day after John Middlebrook, the chief appellate officer, cut the suspensions of seven Penske Racing team members from six to two points races after infractions related to the rear suspension were found in the cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano last month at Texas.

“I don’t feel like this, in any way, undermines, what we do,’’ Helton said of those decisions.

He admits, though, that a message was sent to NASCAR on how it writes its rules.

“If there is a way for us to be more precise in changing wording or adding wording to a rule so that the clarity of what we feel like our responsibility is is translated to the member and is obvious to anybody from the outside looking at it, I think that’s where we benefit and the sport benefits,’’ Helton told a group of reporters Friday at Darlington Raceway.

Asked if that meant the 192-page NASCAR Sprint Cup Rule Book needs to be thicker next year, Helton said: “It doesn’t necessarily have to be thicker (but) to be more clear. I think there is evidence of NASCAR, particularly in the last decade or so, to try to be more clear with things. Every experience we go through gives us the ability to understand what more clear means.’’

As for what exactly needs to be clearer, Helton said “everything.’’

Although the appeals process stripped some of NASCAR’s penalties this week, Helton said that series officials are “content with our appeal process.’’

Middlebrook, the final authority in the appeals process, has proved friendly to teams. He’s reduced or rescinded penalties in five of the six cases he’s heard since 2010. The National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer is appointed by the president of NASCAR and serves for $1 a year.

“The integrity of the appeals process needs to be maintained, as it is independent of the regulating arm of NASCAR,’’ Helton said. “The appeals process has been a part of our sport ... ever since its existence.’’

Helton also addressed the comments Ryan Newman made on Fox last week after his crash at Talladega.

“They can build safer race cars, they can build safer walls, but they can’t get their heads out of their asses far enough to keep them on the race track and that’s pretty disappointing, and I wanted to make sure I get that point across,’’ Newman told Fox. “You all can figure out who they is.

“That’s no way to end a race. Just poor judgment. You got what you wanted. Poor judgment. Running in the dark, running in the rain.’’

Helton said he had not talked to Newman as of Friday afternoon. Helton reaffirmed NASCAR’s decision not to penalize Newman for those comments.

“We’ve told our drivers all along that you can challenge us,’’ he said. “What you cannot do is criticize the product. In our determination in Ryan’s case, he was challenging us.’’

Newman did address today the comments he made after Talladega and reiterated his frustration with cars becoming airborne. He said he's tried to contact a NASCAR official, but they have yet to respond. 

“My issue has and always has been because I seem to be the reciprocant of whatever airborne disease we have in NASCAR is that either someone lands on me or I land on somebody,” Newman said. “It’s happened three times I think in the last eight or nine races, we’ve proven it’s not safe for the fans.

“I’ve said that in part of my interview so it’s frustrating and I think I’ve voiced my frustration very fairly. I could have said a lot more and paid a penalty but I chose not to, I took a pretty high road.”

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