Why did NHRA change its oil-down policy?

During its second race of four during the month of June, the NHRA announced it would stop charging fines for competitors who dropped oil during qualifying and time trials. Anne Proffit explains why.

Why did NHRA change its oil-down policy?
NHRA Safety Safari attending to a header fire on Troy Buff's BME / Okuma Top Fuel Dragster
Leah Pritchett, 2016 NHRA WInternationals
2016 NHRA WInternationals
2010 NHRA Auto Club Finals
2016 NHRA WInternationals
2016 NHRA WInternationals
2016 NHRA WInternationals

Oil-down incidents are customarily confined to the nitromethane-burning Top Fuel and Funny Car classes in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for professional drivers, but also occur with the J&A Service Pro Mod Series and in the Top Alcohol classes (Funny Car and Dragster methanol-burning cars).

On many occasions it has taken as long as an hour to clean and rehab either one or both lanes of a given racetrack, which takes away from the enjoyment of fans in the stands and upsets the televising of races.

A few years ago there were so many oil-downs during the NHRA races on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during their meet held the end of October, that pundits nicknamed the event the “Oil-Down Nationals”. It was after this barrage of oil-downs that NHRA decided to impose financial penalties during all events for professionals and sportsmen racers.

However, The sanctioning body’s competition committee has noticed that incidents requiring the use of mechanical equipment to clean an oil spill have lessened since the monetary penalties were put into effect.

NHRA President Peter Clifford noted, “We appreciate the efforts that have been made by NHRA race teams to help with oil containment and reducing the frequency of oil-down incidents since the middle of last season.

 “NHRA is grateful for everyone’s cooperation in making the racing product and competition better,” he said.

It’s important to note that points penalties continue to be enforced for all oil-down violations, whether these occur during qualifying or eliminations. And despite the cessation of financial penalties during qualifying and time trials, monetary fines continue for oil-down violations that occur during race-day eliminations on Sunday.

The big “however” in this agreement between NHRA and its teams is that should the trend reverse itself with added oil-down violations, NHRA is able to modify its new policy and implement additional penalties at any given time throughout the balance of the 2016 season. It will be up to the event director to make a change in policy and that person’s decision would be final in determining violations. 

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