While NASCAR fans enjoy the thrill of wrecks, drivers undoubtedly find them less appealing. Drivers hitting other drivers has been a common practice since the sport's inception, and impacts can have drastic effects on a driver or group of driver's race results. Indeed, last lap wrecks still happen frequently, and are a byproduct of competition in a sport filled with pride and emotion. But, what are the rules surrounding NASCAR impacts? Are drivers protected from being hit, or is hitting other drivers an encouraged practice?
NASCAR does not officially release their rulebook to the general public, however drivers, teams, and fans all collectively offer insight into what the specific rules are regarding whether or not drivers are allowed to hit each other during a race. Plainly, NASCAR drivers are not allowed to hit each other intentionally, with the goals of causing an accident to occur. To some, the rules are quite relaxed, in that contact between drivers seldom goes unpunished. Indeed, NASCAR officials have a difficult time ruling on drivers who hit one another, as it is often unclear what was an accident and what was intentional. Theoretically, drivers should never be allowed to hit each other intentionally, but the reality is that drivers can often get away with such actions without penalty.
Such has been the case for many years, and the perceivably relaxed rulings on hitting have sparked debates within the NASCAR community. In other motorsports, like Formula 1 for example, the concept of hitting other drivers is largely frowned upon, whereas NASCAR fans find close contact between racers as an inevitable, and even entertaining, aspect of the sport.
Of course, NASCAR's rules are in place to prevent serious injury and to keep drivers safe. That being said, contact will inevitably remain an aspect of the sport, leaving drivers and fans to interpret rules and take actions that align with their opinions. To some drivers, bumping and hitting is simply part of the game, and in fact a necessity to keep the race competitive. Indeed, maneuvers like bump drafting are commonplace throughout the sport, and involve some degree of risk to pull off, both for the drafter and the driver being hit. The maneuver involves one driver drafting another, where the driver behind bumps into the driver in front to push them forward and continue the draft. But, while this maneuver is considered fair by many, others take a strong stance of objection, citing how the move is extremely dangerous and could cause a fatal crash.
Therein lies the fundamental problem with the question at hand. While hitting other drivers could be seen as common practice, and the NASCAR rules leave little in the way of a clear method to delineate a purposeful hit from an accidental one, an important question still remains: Is risking the life of other drivers for a competitive advantage justifiable? Is hitting other drivers an acceptable practice?
Sports can at times be very dangerous, and NASCAR is no exception. By virtue of our competitive nature, people tend to take risks in lieu of gaining an advantage over other players, so long as the rules allow for such a thing. In NASCAR, it is unclear what exactly qualifies as permissible hitting or bumping behavior, and because most of us may never read the official rules on the matter, the topic may remain somewhat obscured. However, most if not all athletes would scoff at something that endangered the life of someone else. Therefore, hitting might be commonplace in the sport of NASCAR, but that does not necessarily make the practice an acceptable one.