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NASCAR's new penalty structure gets tougher on prerace violations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR has revised its penalty structure from six levels to two levels and plans to dish out penalties more often during race weekends for violations that occur before the race.

In new rules released Thursday, NASCAR said it will replace its "warning" system with a new series of penalties. Failing inspections repeatedly and other mechanical violations found during the weekend before the race could result in penalties in the new system, such as lost practice time, lost pit selection, starting at the rear for a race or a stop-and-go on the first lap of a race.

The series director will determine those penalties, basing them on severity, timing and recurrence of infractions. Unlike in the past, when a team needed to accumulate four warnings during the year before it lost pit-stall selection, the new system gives the series director more leeway in issuing punishment during the race weekend in which the violation occurred. It also eliminates speculation of what could happen if NASCAR were to confiscate a piece during inspections over the weekend.

NASCAR also will only inspect fuel systems, engines and safety components before the first practice, meaning teams would have limited time to fix issues if their cars aren't in compliance in the pre-qualifying inspection. In addition, NASCAR will require any car that fails an inspection station to pass all inspection stations again instead of just the one that it failed.

Any prerace violations NASCAR finds that it deems significant could still fall into NASCAR's new penalty structure, which now has two levels.

Level 1 infractions -- which include missing three or more lug nuts in postrace inspection; failing weight, heights or NASCAR's laser platform; as well as violations of chassis, fuel storage and gear ratio rules -- will result in a penalty of 10-40 points, a crew-chief suspension of up to three races and a $25,000-$75,000 fine. Drivers whose race-winning cars violate these rules would not be able to use the victory to qualify or advance in the playoffs, nor would they be able to use the "playoff points" associated with the win.

The same "encumbered win" rule applies to the more serious Level 2 infractions, which include using traction control, unapproved electronics or manipulating the engine or tires. Level 2 penalties could result in a 75-point deduction, a six-race crew-chief suspension and a $100,000-$200,000 fine.