Another week, another suspension.
One week after NASCAR suspended Cup Series Playoff driver Ryan Blaney after Phoenix, the sanctioning body has suspended Truck Series Playoff driver Zane Smith.
“The No. 38 truck has been disqualified for violating NASCAR Rule Book number 14.4.7.I Windshield Support,” NASCAR announced after the race on Saturday. “We will bring the No. 38 truck back to the R&D center.”
The disqualification has limited effect on the season, admittedly. Though he was a Playoff driver, Smith failed to qualify for the final round of the Playoffs in the elimination race at Homestead-Miami Speedway based on his finishing position. Entering in must-win position, he ended up painfully close in the runner-up spot.
His demotion to 34th place, last, and the removal of his 16 stage points from the race keeps him just as far outside the Championship 4. It’s the first time in his four full-time Truck Series seasons that Smith has failed to make the final round of the postseason, which culminated in winning the championship last season.
Smith might not get another chance to back up that title, since he’ll be moving to the Cup Series next season driving for Spire Motorsports before moving to Trackhouse Racing in 2025.
Still, his Front Row Motorsports team doesn’t intend to just take the penalty.
“We will continue to work and discuss with NASCAR officials back at the NACAR R&D Center in Concord, N.C. before making any further comment,” the team said in a statement.
And they have some recent precedent to feel hopeful about that discussion being successful.
Last week, Ryan Blaney, who finished sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, was disqualified after the race when officials ruled that the left-front shock on the No. 12 did not meet the overall specified length outlined in Section 188.8.131.52 of the NASCAR Rule Book.
After taking Blaney’s car back to the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, officials realized that the template used in post-race inspection wasn’t accurate. They quickly announced that the suspension was rescinded, handing Blaney all his points for the race result and the stages.
Much like for Smith, it didn’t actually change much. Blaney got his position of eighth in the standings restored, but he’s approaching the final two races in the Round of 8 with a must-win attitude even with that change.
“We went to NASCAR and were able to talk to them,” Blaney said to CupScene editor-in-chief Greg Engle on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I appreciate NASCAR for being receptive to it and talking with us Monday and meeting with the parts at their R&D Center and understanding what the disconnect was between pre-race and post-race.”
While NASCAR rarely rescinds penalties of its own volition – with the National Motorsports Appeals Council having to compel NASCAR to return all of Hendrick Motorsport’s points following a hood louvres penalty earlier this season – the Blaney decision does prove that officials are willing to revisit their calls.
That might end up no consolation for Smith and his team if the penalty was actually correct, especially since NASCAR is likely to be more diligent the week after rescinding a penalty, but it should be a comfort for members of the sport to know that officials are doing their best to make fair calls.
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