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Breaking down Josh Williams’ Atlanta incident and possible penalties

HAMPTON, GA. — Arguably the most memorable moment of the Atlanta race weekend was Josh Williams’ infield walk Saturday during the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ RAPTOR 250.

However, it could carry some penalties Tuesday.

Credit: HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 18: Sammy Smith, driver of the #18 Pilot Flying J Toyota, and John Hunter Nemechek, driver of the #20 Mobil 1 Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Xfinity Series RAPTOR 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 18, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)


Josh Williams’ crew repaired his car after he was in a lap 28 multi-car wreck in turn one. On lap 32, Williams restarted the race, still on the damaged vehicle clock, as debris flew off of his car and caused another caution.

Officials used section 8.8.9.I of the NASCAR rulebook to park the DGM Racing driver for the day.

“If a damaged vehicle exits pit road before sufficient repairs had been made and thereafter causes or extends a caution (e.g. leaking fluid, debris, etc.), then said vehicle may incur a lap(s) or time penalty or may not be permitted to return to the Race.”

Williams parked his car at the start-finish line, raised a piece sign and walked across the grass to his pit stall.

There, he was promptly whisked away to the infield care center and then the NASCAR Xfinity Series hauler.

As Williams and his car sat at the hauler for nearly three hours, the incident was at the center of memes, sponsors taking advantage of free airtime and comments from drivers such as David Ragan and a recently-penalized Denny Hamlin, who offered to cover any possible fines.

Fines, which are likely given NASCAR’s response.

NASCAR’s rules and the incident

When a driver is unable to keep going after sustaining damage, the NASCAR rulebook specifies the following steps in a non-emergency situation:

  • Shut off electrical power and, if driver is uninjured, lower driver’s window net.
  • Do not loosen, disconnect, or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR Official.
  • After being directed to exit the vehicle, the driver must immediately proceed to either the ambulance or other vehicle as directed by safety personnel or a NASCAR Official.
  • At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron.
  • At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle.

Williams exited the vehicle, walked onto the track and across the grass to the pits without any safety personnel nearby.

Given the nature of the incident, Section 4.4.B of the NASCAR rulebook could be applicable.

The section specifies “any actions deemed to… pose a dangerous risk to the safety of competitors, officials…or others” could warrant “a loss of 25-50 driver and/or team owner points and/or $25,000-$50,000 fine” and “may also result” in “race suspension(s), indefinite suspension or membership revocation”

In general, NASCAR also deems actions detrimental to the sport could result in a fine and/or “indefinite suspension or membership revocation”

Should Williams be penalized, fines are very likely. However, a points penalty and a suspension period could come with it.

2009 incident with a possible preview of penalties

Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

During green-flag pit stops in the 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta, a JTG-Daugherty Racing crewman chased a tire into the dogleg grass after it rolled away from their stall.

NASCAR threw a caution, suspended the crewman for the rest of the race and four subsequent races. Crew chief Frank Kerr was also put on probation for the rest of the year.

The rulebook still specifies the crew chief “assumes responsibility for the actions of his/her driver… and may be subject to disciplinary action as a result.”

While Williams’ actions were under caution, NASCAR may still argue the possibility of cars traveling at a high rate of speed, such as to catch up to the field after repairs, posed a similar danger as what was seen with the 2009 incident.

NASCAR is expected to announce any penalties Tuesday.

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