NASCAR is one of the fastest motorsports on the planet. The organization has taken great strides as an organization to maximize driver safety, and hitting will always put the safety of other drivers at risk. But many fans still wonder if NASCAR drivers can hit each other.
NASCAR drivers can hit each other if the hitting is not deemed intentional. If NASCAR believes one driver intentionally hit another, the offending driver will face harsh sanctions. However, with so many gray areas, NASCAR has a hard time deciphering which hits are intentional.
Below, we will explore when it is and when it is not acceptable for NASCAR drivers to hit each other. NASCAR also has two other forms of contact that involve pushing, or drafting, and the common bump and run maneuver. Keep reading to discover when NASCAR drivers may push or bump opposing drivers.
NASCAR drivers are not allowed to hit each other intentionally, but incidental contact does occur often during a race. At speeds of 180 miles an hour or more, it’s very easy for the cars to bump into each other on relatively tight tracks, and it’s okay as long as it’s not intentional.
If you have watched NASCAR races, you probably saw drivers hitting and even putting one another into the SAFER Barrier. However, you may find their policies confusing, as the black flag will wave in certain situations, penalizing the offending driver.
One reason NASCAR punishes very few drivers for hitting another driver is because they must be absolutely sure the offending driver intentionally hit another. It is often tough to determine who the offending driver is at times and whether the hit was intentional.
The obvious downside to this is that there are situations where drivers can sometimes get away with hitting another driver intentionally if they are subtle in their approach.
Many times, drivers hit one another by accident. This is deemed incidental contact, and it’s a natural result of close racing at speeds of 180 miles an hour. Suppose one driver leads another into Turn 2 and they attempt a block. If the blocking driver runs into the trailing driver’s right fender and they end up totaling their car, NASCAR will have a hard time deciding who to punish – if anyone.
However, if two drivers traded blows with one another throughout the race and one driver puts their opponent into the wall, NASCAR will review the incident and issue fines, probation, or even suspensions.
When you watch events at Daytona and Talladega, you often see cars racing in tight packs. Another reason NASCAR lets most hits slide at superspeedways stems from the fact that if one car gets loose and hits another and a pileup ensues, it’s almost always incidental contact, with nobody in particular to clearly blame.
Hitting at superspeedways becomes more common toward the end of a race. Sometimes, 14 or 15 drivers are vying for position, all of whom are racing within one second behind the leader.
With the drivers racing so close, one wrong yet innocent move can result in one car hitting and even turning another into the wall. Regardless, contact, especially at superspeedways, is inevitable and will always occur, even if it is mainly incidental.
NASCAR’s goal is to ensure their drivers stay safe during a race. However, there are times drivers may perceive incidental contact as a direct hit. Or, if another driver hits them, regardless of how innocent the act is, they may retaliate and intentionally try to get back at the offending driver. These are competitive people after all!
Even if a driver believes another hit them on purpose for whatever reason, NASCAR prohibits intentional hitting. And if they believe a driver intentionally hit another, they may end up parking that driver’s car for the duration of the race. The offending driver can expect probation, fines, and suspensions. Repeat offenses will result in stronger penalties from NASCAR.
NASCAR drivers may push each other. Drivers pushing one another occurs most notably at superspeedways. However, they can also push each other at speedways and even short tracks. The faster the track, the greater the odds that drivers will push one another to gain an advantage over the competition.
Ideally, teammates who race for the same organization will push one another through the field in a quest to reach the front. Some drivers drive for single-car organizations and will opt to work with another driver who drives for the same manufacturer.
If drivers find themselves racing alone without getting behind another driver to push them to the front, or if they cannot align with a driver to push them, they are susceptible to losing position on the track. The next time you watch a NASCAR event, especially one at a superspeedway, take note that the cars pushing one another are always faster than the lone stragglers.
You also want to take note of how quickly cars without a partner to push them lose position. If 31 cars are racing within one second of the leader at the Daytona 500 and the driver riding in fifth place has no partner, they can fall from fifth to 31st within seconds.
Not only do NASCAR drivers push one another, but it is a strategic maneuver that keeps them driving at a speed respectable enough to stay on pace with the leaders. Sticking in the slipstream of cars in front is key to maintaining optimum speed.
Drivers attempting to align themselves to push one another across the finish line at an event can misjudge and end up wrecking one another. Traveling at speeds that sometimes top 190 miles per hour, NASCAR drivers must accurately align themselves either directly in front of or behind one another to stay fast.
NASCAR cars bump a leading car when they are vying for position late in the race in hopes of momentarily knocking the leading car loose. This allows the trailing car to cruise past the bumped car to take the lead or gain position on the track.
The leading driver, besides losing momentary control, must ease up on the accelerator to regain control of their car. If you have ever driven in snow and momentarily lost control while sliding on ice, you have an idea of what it feels like to be the victim of a bump and run.
Like pushing, the bump and run technique is a strategic maneuver in NASCAR and it does not require a hard hit. Instead, the trailing car may tap the car in front of them to gain the desired effect. Just a minor correction from the leading car is all it takes for the trailing car to get an advantage and make an overtake.
If a trailing driver attempts to use more force, they will put both themselves and the driver in front of them at risk for crashing out of the race. While more powerful bumps are not unheard of, it is for this reason you almost exclusively see cars giving one another only a light tap.
This technique is only common in NASCAR, as the cars can withstand minor contact. If you watch IndyCar or Formula 1, you will not see the bump and run technique used. The lighter and more fragile F1 cars for example simply cannot hold up to any real contact without getting damaged.
NASCAR drivers can only hit each other if it is deemed unintentional. Intentional hitting of another driver may earn that driver a penalty or even a race ban. However, bumping is common in NASCAR, and light taps usually don’t incur any sanctions for the drivers.