Encumbered is quintessential NASCAR

I hate it

Everything about it. Darlington Raceway was such a great race. One of the best of the year so far. Now, the whole weekend has been tarnished.

Related: Darlington NASCAR Penalties

Encumbered, not only is that a highly pretentious word by itself. It also sounds like a word directly out of the Brian France vocabulary book. Place it right there next to ‘quintessential NASCAR’. The fans draw that correlation too. It only gives them an added bonus reason to hate the new NASCAR terminology.

What does encumbered mean in NASCAR? It means that keep the win, they keep the money. But they do not keep the points. The win also doesn’t help them reach the playoff’s. In other words, a team that’s not running for points can take a gamble and cheat it’s ass off, in chase of trophy’s.

If nothing else, change the term. The world doesn’t have any idea what it means, as shown in the chart below. Upon NASCAR’s announcement on Wednesday, a web search for the meaning of “encumbered” sky rocket’s.

Google Trends encumbered
Google Trends shows the search traffic for the term “encumbered” after NASCAR’s announcement. Chart shows data from August 31st 2017 to September 7th, 2017.

Denny Hamlin got two of those this weekend. He won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, encumbered. Then he won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, also encumbered.

Two emcumbered wins for Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin uses two fingers to tell us how many encumbered wins he picked up at Darlington Raceway (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Should they be disqualified?

“I think it’s time to start disqualifying people,” stated Jeff Burton on NBC.


You can make the argument that short tracks have been doing this very thing since they caught the first cheater. If a car is deemed illegal at your local short track, 2nd place is awarded the win. But, that’s just it. The winner is still announced, at the track. It’s not on Tuesday or Wednesday at the NASCAR Research & Development Center.

Short tracks don’t take apart the car, piece by piece and put it to a laser scan either. If you put a laser scan to any car, at any short track, I guarantee you every single car would fail in some way. One thousandth of an inch, come on.

NASCAR has had the long standing belief that fans should know who the winner is before they leave the race track. Absolutely.

Disqualifying a team on Tuesday or Wednesday would make us all feel like with were sold some snake oil. We were, even with an encumbered finish. But, it would be far worse if 2nd place was handed the winner’s trophy.

Sure sounds like a participation trophy to me. Though it would be interesting to see how teams elect to deliver the trophy to it’s rightful owner.

Encumbered win NASCAR
DARLINGTON, SC – SEPTEMBER 02: Joey Logano also has his 2nd place run declared encumbered at Darlington raceway (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Change NASCAR Tech

The problem isn’t that teams are cheating. The problem is that the tech process is too detailed.

Sure, Denny Hamlin was found illegal. But, I would bet half the field would be found to have something wrong in the current tech process. So, are we going to run through the field and back to 5th? Declaring the first legal car the winner, even if he finished 5th?

Pre-race tech is where cars should be scrutinized. Not after the race, before the race. Make pre-race tech more detailed, tech the shit out of ’em. Open tech earlier, perhaps the night before then run them all through.

When they make it through, send that racecar to the pit lane. It’ll sit there, next to armed gaurds. Untampered, don’t let the teams lay a finger on the cars. Lock down the pit lane, Parc-ferme the whole thing.

I understand time is limited, but so is the patience of the race fan. Off to the dirt track they go. Week after week, penalty after penalty. Is what we’re watching real or is NASCAR going to take the win away?

Combing through any racecar with lasers is sure to net some cheating, even if it’s accidental. If you must catch these teams by .0005 inches, do it before the race.

I’m all for NASCAR keeping a level playing field, don’t get me wrong. I just think these teams should be tech’d with a higher scrutiny, before the race, not after. Give us the real winner, don’t kinda sorta give us a winner 3 days after they cross the finish line.

Encumbered NASCAR finish
DARLINGTON, SC – SEPTEMBER 03: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 3, 2017 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Run what ya brung

That’s one solution. A dumb one.

You need to understand what you’re asking for. Some fans think run what ya brung’ would be a good thing. It won’t.

Have you seen a Formula One race recently? That’s a run what ya brung’ series for you. The winner in F1 can be predicted with near 99% accuracy, on Friday.

Gene Haas talks F1 performance gap
Gene Haas talks F1 performance gap

It’s bad. To the point that Gene Haas claims the gap to the front teams is “impossible to close“. Is that what you really want? You think the NASCAR Toyota’s are ahead now? Just open up the rule book. You’ll be asleep by lap 10 with Martin Truex Jr, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch lapping position 17.

It’s one thing to let a small dirt track team ‘innovate’. It’s a whole different thing to let an auto manufacture like Mercedes in F1 or Toyota in NASCAR, innovate. They will disappear from the back-marker teams. You think it’s hard for an under-funded team to win now? Do that, they won’t win, at all. In fact, the same team will win, literally every week.

NASCAR is awesome because of it’s “stock” mentality. Stock car hasn’t meant “show room stock” in several decades. Instead, the term has morphed into it’s new racing meaning; equal. Equal is great, to a point. Too equal might be a bad thing as well, I’m really not sure.

The GP2 series is as equal as it get’s. Customer cars, all exactly the same, minus setup. It’s also the best road racing series out there, even when it’s whole concept is in stark contrast to it’s sister series

I do know, for a fact, opening the rule book isn’t the solution. Unless you really want it to become F1. NASCAR is an amazingly competitive sport when Jeremy Clements can take a 10-year-old racecar and put it in victory lane with an underfunded team. That’s literally the type of thing that made NASCAR what it is today.

Encumbered sucks. Disqualification’s are worse but neither should be announced on a Wednesday.


Shane Walters
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Darlington Raceway
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