The White Zone: What’s with the inconsistent officiating, NASCAR?

The Sun is setting on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. The championship will be decided on Sunday. But for the third time in four years, NASCAR demonstrated inconsistent officiating in a pivotal Playoff race at ISM Raceway.

Yesterday Kurt Busch was held a lap for passing the pace car on pit entry.

NASCAR defines “pulling up to pit” as such:

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“When following the caution vehicle during a caution period, drivers must maintain their position in relation to other vehicles in the field or as otherwise directed by NASCAR and will not be permitted to pass other vehicles or the caution vehicle when preparing to enter pit road.”

I don’t take issue with the enforcement of the rule. By the letter of the law, Busch was in violation of passing the pace car on pit entry. What I take issue with, however, is its inconsistent application.

Earlier in this same race, Chase Elliott appeared to (TV camera cut from an aerial shot to a ground shot) have passed the pace car when he hit pit road.

While that’s ambiguous, this one from March at Phoenix isn’t.

I looked up the penalty report from the Phoenix race in March, and Busch wasn’t penalized for passing the pace car on pit entry.

While it was more blatant yesterday than in March, that’s a missed call on NASCAR’s end. And one could argue that it put Busch in the position that led to him being taken out in a wreck.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Two years ago, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. were dinged for this same thing. In the race at Phoenix earlier that year, however, NASCAR no-called Carl Edwards for the same thing.

Given the layout of the pit road entrance at most tracks (particularly Phoenix and Darlington Raceway), passing the pace car is unavoidable.

I understand that things will sometimes slip through the cracks, but it’s an incredibly bad look on NASCAR when there are multiple examples through the season of cars not being penalized for passing the pace car on pit entry.

And keep in mind that this is the third time in the last four years in which NASCAR made inconsistent penalty calls in the November race at Phoenix.

It also doesn’t help that this comes a week after NASCAR mistakenly sent Jimmie Johnson to the rear of the field at Texas Motor Speedway for failing pre-race tech inspection multiple times (except he didn’t fail a third time, which would’ve resulted in that). Now to NASCAR’s credit, they came out after the race and said it was “unacceptable” and that they dropped the ball.

NASCAR, I can live with you either enforcing the “pulling up to pit” rule 100 percent of the time or not at all. The “somewhere in between” amount, however, has to stop. If not, we run the risk of it marring Sunday’s championship race.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

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My name is Tucker White. I'm currently majoring in journalism at the University of Tennessee. I started getting into NASCAR around 1998 and started following the sport full-time in 2001. I live and breathe everything related to NASCAR. I also have a burning passion for all things auto racing. I've been following Formula 1 since 2011 and am slowing getting into IndyCar. I do my best to keep up with the World Endurance Championship. But at the end of the day, NASCAR is my primary beat. Being both a native of Knoxville, Tennessee and a student at UT, I'm naturally a die-hard Tennessee Volunteers fan. Especially when it comes to Tennessee Volunteers football. While I'll never stop being one, it can be the most heart-wrenching thing ever. Since 2005, this team has delivered more than its fair share of heartbreaking moments and inhuman frustration. I've stuck with the Vols from the best of times - 1998 National Champions - to the worst of times - 2005 to present - because I know that it'll make it all so worth it when the mighty Vols finally return to the top of the college football landscape. In the last few years, I started to really get into baseball. This past season, I decided to pledge my sporting allegiance to the Atlanta Braves. It didn't turn out too well as they finished 67-95 and finished fourth in the NL East. I do see great potential with the young roster and they might be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

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