Jeremy Clements’ Xfinity Series win Friday night at Daytona no longer qualifies him for the playoffs.
NASCAR announced Tuesday that Clements’ car failed post-race inspection at its research and development center. While Clements stays officially as the race winner, he was penalized 75 points, his team was fined $60,000 and lost the automatic playoff berth that the win provided.
The sanctioning body said Clements’ car violated the series rules regarding intake manifolds. The penalty means that Clements has to win over the next three races of the regular season to make the playoffs. He was likely going to miss the playoffs without a win anyway; he was over 140 points behind the last driver provisionally in the 12-driver playoff field before the penalty.
Clements’ win was a feel-good story across a messy Daytona race weekend plagued by rain-related issues. He drives for his small family-owned team and had won just one other Xfinity Series race in his career before Friday night. The playoff berth the win initially provided would have been a significant boost to his small team. And while Clements can still claim to be the winner of the race, he’s now worse off than he was had he not won the race and his car wasn’t taken back to NASCAR’s R&D center.
Why the win still counts
Clements’ penalty exposes an odd technicality in NASCAR’s post-race inspection rules that’s incredibly hard to explain to casual fans. Especially when contrasted with the penalty Denny Hamlin received after winning the Cup Series race at Pocono earlier this summer.
Hamlin was disqualified and had the win taken away after the Pocono race because his car failed post-race inspection at the track. But Clements gets to keep his win because his car passed post-race inspection at the track and failed a more vigorous inspection off-site.
NASCAR’s recent policy to take away wins for cars that fail at-track technical inspections was a sensible move. It’s hard to explain to fans how a car and driver can receive a massive points penalty yet keep a win. And it’s even more difficult to explain in this context. The site of an inspection failure shouldn’t matter when it comes to the disqualification of a winner. If Hamlin lost his win at Pocono because of an inspection failure, Clements shouldn’t officially be listed as the winner of Friday night’s race either.