Sports

Faux Victory Lane celebrations? TMS president knows it’s possible with new NASCAR rules

Special to Star-Telegram

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage has recreated a Victory Lane celebration before. He may have to do it again with NASCAR’s latest attempt to clean up its sport.

NASCAR announced Monday that winning race cars that fail post-race inspection will be disqualified, instead of the sport assessing less severe penalties several days later as it has in the past.

That means faux Victory Lane celebrations are possible.

“That scenario will be a terrible thing if it happens,” Gossage said. “Fans sit there and see the winner and the driver goes to Victory Lane and the team celebrates. Then, a few hours later, the car is disqualified. That’s awful, but that team is the one who put themselves in that situation.

“But this is better than what’s been happening.”

What’s been happening is NASCAR conducting more thorough inspections at its research and development center in North Carolina, and assessing midweek penalties for winners that failed. The sport had never stripped a driver of a win.

Kevin Harvick, for instance, won last fall at TMS, but his car failed inspection a couple days later. NASCAR handed a significant penalty, including losing an automatic berth into the championship finale, but he’s still recognized as the race winner.

That won’t be the case anymore, although it’s far from perfect.

NASCAR will conduct thorough post-race inspections at the track this season, a process that will take approximately 90 minutes, compared to sending the cars to North Carolina. However, in that 90-minute window, the Victory Lane celebration and post-race interviews will have already been conducted.

If a winning car fails inspections, the second-place team wins the race. By that point, though, the second-place team will be long gone from the track.

“That’s the downside -- you’ve had a false celebration in Victory Lane,” Gossage said. “But this falls squarely on the shoulders of the teams. They can not put themselves in any sort of position to be found breaking the rules. Before, it was embarrassing to fail inspection, but you kept the win.

“Now, you don’t get to keep the win and everybody in the sport is going to be mad at you.”

The good news for Gossage is he’s at least had experience with false celebrations.

TMS’ first open-wheel race in June 1997 crowned Billy Boat the initial race winner and Boat went through the Victory Lane celebrations. Upon protest, it was determined that the race winner was actually Arie Luyendyk.

The race is best remembered for Luyendyk and Boat’s team owner, A.J. Foyt, getting into a scuffle on Victory Lane. But Gossage and TMS had to recreate a Victory Lane celebration with Luyendyk a couple years afterward for posterity’s sake.

“Arie put on the uniform he had that night, the hat from that team,” Gossage said. “I wore the same jacket. We recreated it just so we could have it right in the record books.”

Gossage would like to avoid such instances going forward, but overall felt this is the right step for NASCAR to take. The sport is unique in terms of post-race inspections, and it should handle it in as timely a manner as possible.

As NASCAR executive vice president of competition and racing development Steve O’Donnell said: “Our industry understands the need to focus on what happens on the race track. We cannot allow inspection and penalties to continue to be a prolonged storyline. Race vehicles are expected to adhere to the rule book from the opening of the garage to the checkered flag.”

More money

NASCAR is trying to liven up the truck series with what it’s calling the “Triple Truck Challenge.” The series announced a new bonus program that will award a bonus check for the winning drivers at TMS (June 7), Iowa (June 15) and Gateway (June 22).

Each race has a $50,000 bonus going to the winning driver. That amount goes higher if a driver wins multiple races -- winning two of the three nets a driver $150,000 total, and winning all three would net a total of $500,000.

“What better place could there be to ask drivers to put it all on the line than at No Limits, Texas?” Gossage said. “To lay an extra $50,000 out there for these drivers to fight over further enhances what’s always the perfect opening event to our summer race weekend.”

Briefly

TMS is having a Daytona 500 watch party later this month at the track, and Gossage said the track has received a record number of camping RSVPs for the event. Admission is free and more information is available at the track’s website. The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 17.

TMS’ first race weekend will be March 28-31, highlighted by the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on March 31. Tickets to the Sunday race are available for as low as $49 for adults, and children 12 and under for $10.

TMS announced plans last month to host the inaugural Ducks Unlimited Expo April 17-19, 2020.

NASCAR announced its seventh-generation stock car is on schedule to compete in 2021. The Gen-7 car will aim to increase brand identity, NASCAR said.

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