Formula 1 and Indycar both have strict rules against blocking while NASCAR has none…but should they? People argue that F1/Indycar need blocking rules because of how dangerous wheel-to-wheel contact could be for those open wheel cars but if you look, blocking can be just as dangerous in stock car racing. 3x NSCS champion Tony Stewart has brought this issue to the forefront of all our minds with his recent tirade against Joey Logano who blocked him down to the grass on the final restart at Auto Club Speedway last weekend.
When Tony Stewart tried to block Michael Waltrip during the final lap at Talladega last year, it triggered a massive 25 car pileup where Stewart flipped over and Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion forcing him to sit out two races. Another instance of blocking that is still very fresh in our minds is the horrendous last lap wreck in the Nationwide race earlier this year at Daytona. Regan Smith tried to impede Keselowski in his attempt to pass him for the win which caused a big crash that sent Kyle Larson’s car airborne with his engine and other major pieces of debris piercing the catch fence injuring near 30 fans.
In retrospect, one could say that if there were blocking rules, those incidents would have never taken place. With that being said, should NASCAR consider implementing a set of rules to stop blocking much like its open wheel counterparts? Some say definitely, others say they could to an extent while some say there should be no rules regarding blocking whatsoever. My opinion would be the latter if you were wondering…
I’ve heard a small contingent of fans say that NASCAR needs to institute such polices but that would be a disaster if they opted to do that. I personally believe any rules hindering drivers efforts to protect their position on the race track shouldn’t exist to begin with. I watch open wheel races and every time a driver comes under pressure from a fellow competitor, they get to choose to either take the inside lane into a corner or the outside to protect their spot and are helpless to defend any other way. Also, NASCAR has enough trouble policing restarts and the yellow line rule so the last thing we need to do is throw a blocking rule into the mix. That would just add more unneeded confusion and controversy.
Can you imagine a NASCAR race where you aren’t allowed to defend your position any more than simply picking a lane; that would be terrible! Don’t get me wrong, I am a big open wheel fan and to prevent the almost inevitable airborne crashes that would ensue, they need these rules. I understand that they are necessary in some forms of racing but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.
Lastly, enforcing such rules in NASCAR would be practically impossible with how much battling there is in a race at any given time. NASCAR races have more passing in 10 laps than most F1 races have in the whole event which is why the FIA can manage such rules with little hassle. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like NASCAR would ever consider adapting those kinds of rules. Blocking is and always has been a part of racing and wrecks are sometimes an unfortunate outcome but outlawing a driver’s right to defend their position is not the answer.
This sport is very safe but there are still weaknesses like tracks that have exposed concrete walls or the gaps in pit road which put Mark Martin in a very dangerous situation last year and of course there is the issue with debris ripping through catch fences. By the way, there is a 4 foot gap in the backstretch wall at Talladega that is pure guard rail instead of safer barrier…I am dreading the day a car finally finds that spot. There are always improvements to be made, this is a work in progress and everyone knows that. No matter what we do though, you can never make a sport where 43 men and woman race 3,500lb stock cars at 200mph 100% bullet proof. There will always be accidents where people get hurt which is a dark and sad part of all forms of racing that you can’t ever fully prevent but trying to control how the racers drive isn’t going to solve anything. Like the late great Dale Earnhardt once said, “It ain’t always the one with the fastest car, it’s the one who refuses to lose.”