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The Dirt on Encumbered Finishes
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The Dirt on Encumbered Finishes

Despite the higher powers at NASCAR having coined the term encumbered finish six months ago, its definition and the repercussions of incurring one continue to befuddle some fans. If you are one of them, and you do not want to cause your friends to call your racing expertise into question by asking them for an explanation, fear not. We have provided a basic rundown so you can now be the one to impress your less-informed buddies.

First, it helps to know that the word encumbered simply means “restricted.” Therefore, a winner who breaks the specified rules is not disqualified, but rather penalized in other ways. For example, they may lose championship points, and the win will not count toward a Chase advancement.

The participants and crew members responsible for the violation may also be fined, with the amount ranging from paltry to staggering, depending on the offense. For instance, earlier this month, three teams had encumbered finishes in one weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But while Crew Chief Jeff Stankiewicz was fined a mere $7,500 and suspended for one event (and his team docked ten championship points), Crew Chief Randall Burnett was fined $65,000 and suspended for three events (and his team docked thirty-five points). So, the violations and their consequences run the gamut.

If you can stomach the whole “Encumbered Race Finishes” section in the Sprint Cup Rule Book, you can find it here on NBC Sports, but you will notice that they also provide a more streamlined explanation. Initially, missing lug nuts and/or a failed laser inspection at the race’s end were the main culprits for which participants were penalized, but NBC notes that NASCAR quickly added some more possibilities “...that may give rise to an encumbered Race finish, but are not limited to:

“Postrace ground clearance and/or body heights measurements Postrace failure to meet minimum weight All in-race or post race P5 penalty violation examples as cited by the Rule Book All in-race or post race P6 penalty violation examples as cited by the Rule Book”

So there you have it, sports fans. Those of you who are determined to master the whole code can read and memorize the long version, and those who just want to grasp the basics can do so as well. Either way, you are sure to sound smart to your NASCAR-loving friends.

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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