In NASCAR, teams know they have to cheat to win, and do. But NASCAR decided to reel in its “culture” of cheating this year by throwing out a long-established mindset of not revoking wins from cheating race cars, and for the first time in decades, it happened. NASCAR overturned a victory after the race.
The sanctioning body made an example of driver Ross Chastain’s No. 44 team after the rain-delayed Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway on Sunday, announcing soon after the 200-mile race ended that its dominant driver, Chastain, was disqualified for failing post-race technical inspection.
This is a big one. NASCAR’s records show the last winner to be disqualified, at least in its top Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, came in 1960. (The most recent Cup Series disqualification in general was 1973.)
Chastain’s truck, NASCAR’s announcement said, was way too low in the front:
“Basically we have a procedure and rules in place, trucks are restricted on their ride heights, the front and the rear of the vehicles,” said NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Managing Director Brad Moran, who spoke to media to explain the decision.
“Unfortunately the 44 (truck) was low on the front — extremely low. We have a process of what happens at that point. They do get an opportunity to roll around. They put fuel in the vehicle. They put air the tires.”
Then, Moran added, officials wait at least 5-10 minutes to inspect the car again, but that re-inspection failed to help Chastain’s team. “Unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front at all,” Moran said.
The team is appealing the penalty “in an expedited process,” NASCAR said, and the team itself issued a statement that it believes race damage left the truck too low.
The DQ gave second-place finisher and 2018 series champion Brett Moffitt the victory, and dropped Chastain to last in the finishing order.
NASCAR’s tried everything to avoid physically taking a trophy away and giving it to another driver, until it announced this year that it would finally disqualify cheating teams. There were workarounds to still punish teams for cheating, like “encumbered” finishes and taking away all of the benefits of a win but keeping the “winning” driver’s name on a trophy and at the top of the results sheet.
For anyone who’s followed NASCAR between roughly 1973 and now, though, it’s almost hard to believe a driver actually got disqualified. Teams readily admit that cheating, no matter how big or small, is part of the deal. NASCAR has long stuck to its mentality that people attending a race “should go home having seen the winner”—an idea that’s become antiquated as news has become more instant, and less about reading the headlines in the next day’s paper.
Update: Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 2:56 p.m. ET: NASCAR announced on Wednesday that Chastain’s disqualification was upheld after an appeal by his Niece Motorsports team. The team argued that race damage made its truck fail inspection, but that didn’t fly, and NASCAR said the decision is now final.
The team tweeted a statement after the appeal, saying it disagrees with the decision but that it’s “exhausted [its] options for recourse and must move on.”