The word “encumbered” has been officially removed from NASCAR lexicon.
The sanctioning body issued a rulebook update on Friday, and while variations of the word encumbered still appear throughout the rulebook, it’s been eliminated in the most prominent and important point.
If you’ll look closely at that image where encumbered is crossed out, NASCAR is not doing away with encumbered finishes. Just the term itself.
That means Joey Logano’s situation in 2017 would be no different if it happened in 2018. After Logano won at Richmond in 2017, his car failed post-race inspection. As a result, his finish was “encumbered” and he couldn’t count the win towards automatic inclusion into the playoffs.
Logano missed out on the playoffs via points after a summer slump. If Logano, or any other driver, wins a race in 2018 and his car fails post-race inspection, the win won’t count for the playoffs.
‘Encumbered’ had a brief run in NASCAR. It was instituted in September of 2016 to explain how a driver couldn’t advance in the playoffs via a win where his car failed inspection. It was used twice regarding race winners in 2017 (Denny Hamlin’s win at Darlington was encumbered) and Chase Elliott’s Chicago finish was encumbered after his team was found putting tape on his spoiler for increased downforce.
The unique word was also a source of derision for many, simply because of its awkwardness. Logano even started making cucumbered jokes.
We joked about it too. It’s impossible not to make jokes about NASCAR’s convoluted penalty process. But here’s the thing; “encumbered” is still the best term to describe the penalty process that NASCAR is keeping in place. While the word may be officially gone from the description of a driver being unable to count a win for the playoffs, how else is it going to be described?
Encumbered became a common-enough term in NASCAR that people knew it meant a penalized finish. Until a different adjective is introduced, it’s still going to be the unofficial word of choice.
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