Explaining NASCAR's Appeal Process

Denny Hamlin

NASCAR docked Denny Hamlin 75 points and suspended crew chief Darian Grubb (right) six races, among other penalties, for infractions discovered after the Brickyard 400. (Photo: Getty Images)


Now that Joe Gibbs Racing intends to appeal NASCAR’s penalties to Denny Hamlin and his team for violations discovered after last weekend’s Brickyard 400 what happens next?

Here’s what can be expected.

The team has 10 calendar days from when the penalty was issued to pay a $500 fee and send written notice for appeal to NASCAR’s Appeals Administrator. Once that is done, a hearing date will be set for Joe Gibbs Racing to contest the 75-point penalty to Hamlin, six-race suspension to crew chief Darian Grubb, $125,000 fine to Grubb and other penalties after NASCAR discovered issues with “several rear firewall block-off plates” on Hamlin’s third-place car.

The Appeals Administrator - George Silbermann - will select three people to be on the National Motorsports Appeals Panel from a list of 34 individuals. Among the considerations will be a person’s availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.

The list of 34 includes track operators, former drivers, former mechanics, former owners, others who have been involved motorsports, and/or the automotive industry and drug-testing experts.

Because Hamlin’s case involves technical issues, someone such as Robert Yates, a former car owner, could be placed on the panel as well as Buddy Parrott, a former crew chief. 

Former drivers who could be asked to join the panel are Johnny Benson, Janet Guthrie, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson, Lake Speed and Lyn St. James. 

Before the hearing, Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR may present a written summary no more than two pages long, standard-sized letter paper, Times New Roman size 12 font, single spaced. The summaries must remain private. Releasing these to the public could incur a penalty.

When the hearing takes place, both sides will be in the room together. Previously, one side presented its case while the other side was not permitted in the room. 

The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book states that “Appeal Panelists have the sole authority to define the scope of relevant testimony, what is admissible or non-admissible, to limit or extend questioning or to seek input from others.’’

Those appealing a penalty and NASCAR officials are not allowed to have legal counsel in the hearing. 

In this hearing, NASCAR has the burden of proving its case. It presents its evidence first. Joe Gibbs Racing then will present its case. Both sides are given alternating opportunities for rebuttal.   Members of the appeals panel also may ask questions at any time during the presentations by both sides. Once the panel has received the testimony and is satisfied that it has enough information to render a decision, it will deliberate in private.

The panel must determine if NASCAR proved there was an infraction. If so, the panel must determine if the penalty assessed is within the scope of NASCAR’s guidelines. Also, the panel can uphold, increase, decrease or otherwise adjust NASCAR’s penalties.

If NASCAR loses, it cannot appeal.

If, in this case, Joe Gibbs Racing loses, it can appeal to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer. That person is Bryan Moss. This is his first year in this position. His decision is final.

If the case reaches this point, the burden of proof switches to the team or individual appealing its case. Thus, the team or individual appealing gets to present its case before NASCAR. Both sides are given an opportunity for rebuttal, based on the Final Appeals Officer’s discretion. The Final Appeals Officer may ask questions at any point of either side during the proceeding. 

Also, the scope of each appeal is limited to the correctness of the appeal panel’s decision. The Rule Book states that “any speculation as to the impact of (the Final Appeals Officer’s) decision on a Member or Race Team (e.g. economic hardships, contractual obligations, etc.) is outside the scope of the FAO’s authority and is not to be considered as part of the appeal.’’

The Final Appeals Officer is to decide if the team or individual has proved no violation happened. If a violation is found to have occurred, the Final Appeals Officer then considers the penalty. He can uphold, increase, decrease or otherwise adjust NASCAR penalties as he sees fit.


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