DRUGS IN NASCAR

Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski dominated the NASCAR headlines last week. Kurt Busch got a few mentions for winning at Atlanta, even though he deserved more. And nestled in the news, on the same day as Edwards’ probation announcement, was the suspension of a pair of NASCAR touring series’ team members.

Exactly who they and the teams are is irrelevant. The point is two more names have been caught and find themselves on the outside of the sport looking in. These announcements have been more frequent in the past year since NASCAR toughened up their drug testing policy.


Jeremy Mayfield is involved in a current court case. That after his suspension for being found in violation of NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. This topic was, and still is, a heavily debated subject. It brought Mayfield’s personal life and NASCAR’s policy out of the wings and onto center stage.

A difference in NASCAR has been going from a “reasonable suspicion” stance to a “random testing” stance. Evidently there are more people involved in drug use than I ever detected in my own garage experiences.

As a team employee I was subject to a drug test to gain employment and then random tests following. This policy is up to each individual team and can vary from shop to shop. Signed paperwork is involved on behalf of all parties. The process is legal and up front so there are no surprises to anyone.

NASCAR runs a very similar procedure. But a very important detail to clarify is this: you need a NASCAR license to be a weekly crewmember, you do not need a NASCAR license to be a team employee.

There are plenty of guys who work strictly in the race shop and never see the speedway. Those are the “guys back at the shop” that get thanked every week from Victory Lane. They are only subject to whatever drug policy an individual team has in place.

Anyone on the road crew, who travels with the team to the racetrack weekly, needs a NASCAR license. The licenses are expensive. But those individuals who acquire a license are also subject to NASCAR’s drug policy.

Part-time or lower budget organizations do not purchase crew licenses for an entire season, but buy single event licenses. These provide pit and garage access for an event and some teams that run only a partial schedule may opt for this, strictly for economical reasons. A fully funded team will purchase an annual license or hard cards for committed mechanics and crewmembers that travel a circuit. The Hard Card is a photo identification card.

The part time employees tend to be the subject of drug suspension announcements. Possibly they feel they won’t be tested and caught with anything in their system on the few times a season they work in a NASCAR garage?

In my experience with a team’s drug test I was given an opportunity to state any type of medication that was in my system. I was subject to a random NASCAR test following my license purchase. But I just happened to never take one for NASCAR. My name simply wasn’t called on their random choices.

In my opinion, there are a few people who take the risk and play the odds when they only race at this level of motorsports a few times a year. The weekly regulars are intelligent enough to know better.

It is a privilege to be involved in the sport and make a living from it. There are plenty of out-of-work experienced crewmembers looking for an opening.

NASCAR’s top three tours race in Las Vegas once a year. Most crewmembers’ gambling are confined to the casinos. But a small group makes the poor decision to take a chance against NASCAR. Never bet against the house.

(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who co-hosts the One and Done auto racing radio talk show Tuesdays at 11am ET. Listen at www.wsicweb.com.)

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