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:

“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.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Tucker White
Tucker White
I've followed NASCAR for well over 20 years of my life, both as a fan and now as a member of the media. As of 2024, I'm on my ninth season as a traveling NASCAR beat writer. For all its flaws and dumb moments, NASCAR at its best produces some of the best action you'll ever see in the sport of auto racing. Case in point: Kyle Larson's threading the needle pass at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2021. On used-up tires, racing on a worn surface and an aero package that put his car on the razor's edge of control, Larson demonstrated why he's a generational talent. Those are the stories I want to capture and break down. In addition to NASCAR, I also follow IndyCar and Formula 1. As a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I'm a diehard Tennessee Volunteers fan (especially in regards to Tennessee football). If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me, down the road, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a diehard fan of the Atlanta Braves, and I lived long enough to see them win a World Series for the first time since 1995 (when I was just a year old). I've also sworn my fan allegiance to the Nashville Predators, though that's not paid out as much as the Braves. Furthermore, as a massive sports dork, I follow the NFL on a weekly basis. Though it's more out of an obligation than genuine passion (for sports dorks, following the NFL is basically an unwritten rule). Outside of sports, I'm a major cinema buff and a weeb. My favorite film is "Blazing Saddles" and my favorite anime is "Black Lagoon."


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