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USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

The EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix race held last Sunday made NASCAR fans witness a pure organic style of racing. With no extra caution, the yellow flags were only raised prior to the stage breaks. However, in the aftermath of the race, heated debates have sparked in the NASCAR community to majorly introduce track limits. There were also suggestions for NASCAR to initiate bigger curbs and the use of turtles as deterrents. All in all, to make drivers avoid shortcutting across the S’s of the road course.

Among all of these debates, there was one notable voice who chose to speak out against NASCAR’s current penalty system. Retired HMS legend Steve Letarte, while being okay with the introduction of track limits, voiced out against the present pass-through penalty system.

Letarte advocates re-introducing the Old Marcus Smith Penalty Box Rule in NASCAR

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Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton, both NASCAR analysts, had an intense discussion following the Cup race at COTA. Beginning the discussion about the feud between Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell, the duo eventually went in to converse about their racing experiences at the COTA road course. They deeply dissected the demands made by the NASCAR community in officiating track limits and the use of bigger curbs at the turns.

You have to have, some sort of track limits. If you don’t, then why have curves? why have a racetrack? Just go wherever you want to go and there has to be track limits,” expressed Jeff. Continuing his statements, Jeff also outlined the other possibilities of using curbs. “It’s a fine line between having a curb that cause a small penalty versus having curbs that do massive damage,” Jeff stated.

On the other hand, Letarte, agreeing with Jeff’s statements, provided a reinforced outlook on the penalty system. “For track limits, I’m okay with that. The only thing I would add is, I don’t love the penalty. I don’t love the pass-through. Um actually am a fan of the old Marcus Smith Penalty Box right there in front of the grandstands,” voiced Steve Letarte.

He further reflected on the in-race pass-through penalty, that Chase Elliott served. “I feel like the overall penalty could be in question right because Chase Elliott clearly cuts the course tires to the right of that yellow or that white line, on the blue that short-cutting the esses,” said Steve. “Coming down pit roads is fine maybe a penalty box play it up sell some naming rights to it make him stop there right in front of the fans add a little bit more of a show.”

What is a Marcus Smith Penalty Box?

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The Marcus Smith Penalty Box, also known as the “Penalty Box,” like in other games, was a penalty system used by NASCAR until the mid-2000s. It was named after Marcus G. Smith, a prominent NASCAR figure and the president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. The Penalty Box was created to deal with significant violations performed by drivers during races.

The box used to be placed near the start/finish line of the course, typically positioned within view of the grandstands and television cameras, serving as a visible embarrassment. When a driver was found to have violated a significant rule, such as shortcutting the road course, intentional wrecking, or any unsportsmanlike conduct, NASCAR authorities instructed the driver to serve a penalty by entering the box. 

Once inside the penalty box, the driver must remain still for a certain amount of time before continuing in the race. The penalty could range from several seconds to a minute, depending on the seriousness of the violation.

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The short-lived Marcus Smith Penalty Box has faded away from NASCAR’s history. Yet its legacy remains a reference to the ongoing debate to maintain a balance between competition and racing sportsmanship.