Grading the latest NASCAR tweaks

NASCAR used its annual rules briefing with media members Wednesday to unveil several intriguing changes to existing policies or procedures.

Here’s a quick reaction to three of the announcements, which were made at NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. (I was not in attendance, so this information was gathered through written materials.)

Damaged cars are out of the race

The details: If a car gets damaged in a crash, the team has five minutes to repair it in its pit box. If the clock expires or the car goes to the garage, it’s out of the race and cannot return. Non-crash mechanical problems can still be fixed in the garage.

Why NASCAR did this: If a car goes to the garage, it’s going to be many laps down anyway and only be on the track to pick up another point or two. Repaired cars are often slow, sometimes drop debris and look amateurish. Also, this will save the teams money because they will need less crew members and won’t need crash carts with expensive parts. Plus, the new point structure gives only one point to the last five spots in the running order anyway, so it might not even matter in some cases.

Grade: A+. What’s the downside to this? I don’t see it.


NASCAR will have a traveling safety team

The details: NASCAR took a step toward what has been proven to be a life-saver in IndyCar by implementing a traveling medical staff. Local doctors will still be used in the infield medical centers, but there will now be a traveling doctor and paramedic on the scene of each crash.

Why NASCAR did this: Obviously, it will enhance safety for the drivers. Other series have traveling safety teams, where NASCAR historically held firm their system of local doctors was best. Plus, NASCAR is getting money from ambulance company AMR as part of a partnership to provide doctors and brand the ambulances.

Grade: B-. It’s definitely a positive development, but it’s still not at IndyCar/NHRA level where the same doctors are there every week. Bob Pockrass reported NASCAR may have four different doctors who rotate through the races.

Dash 4 Cash is back in Xfinity Series

The details: Xfinity’s promotion will live on for four events in the Xfinity Series — the spring races at Phoenix, Bristol, Richmond and Dover — but essentially follow the new stages format which will be used in all series. Two Xfinity regulars from each stage will qualify for the four-driver Dash 4 Cash in Stage 3; two D4C wins equals a playoff berth.

Why NASCAR is doing this: It’s important to Comcast to have something special to promote for the series it sponsors. And it provides something else to talk about on TV.

Grade: C. I’m glad the “heat races” are gone, because those didn’t work last year. At the same time, I’ve always had a hard time getting hyped for the Dash 4 Cash (dating back to Nationwide days), so this is just an “eh” for me.

Also: The stage lengths for the Daytona 500 were announced during the seminar. Stage 1 is 60 laps, Stage 2 is 60 laps and Stage 3 is 80 laps.


15 Replies to “Grading the latest NASCAR tweaks”

  1. You get an A for your grades Jeff. If anything, I would go lower on their medical team approach.

  2. How much time between stages? What can be done to the car between stages? Where is the car between stages?… in the pit box?… or is it required to park in the pit lane?

    1. Stages are just competition cautions. No weird all star race type rules surrounding the stages. Will work like any other caution.

  3. While I will miss the days of the teams being able to run a car out there with just the engine showing, I get the change. We all hate random debris cautions, and this move should help eliminate some of that; only downside is nostalgia. Also, would like to see something like the Dash 4 Cash come to the cup series. Xfinity just doesn’t have the viewership anymore to make this program relevant. Monster could easily put out a program similar to the old No Bull 5 program, which was actually pretty cool. As for the safety team, meh. Not sure why it is necessary to have an actual doctor on the scene of each crash; feel like there’s not much he can offer at the immediate scene anyway.

  4. I for one don’t agree with the wreck and go home policy. You say, “only a point or two” and I say, how many times in the past would a driver/team given anything for a point or two at the end of a season. And I’m not talking about just the upper tier teams. What about a lower funded team that a point or two could lift them a little higher in the standings. Could mean the difference between getting sponsored next season or watching from home. As far as crew size and money saved, lower funded teams, maybe, Hendrick, JGR, CGR, I don’t think so. I hope you’re not endorsing possible layoffs because the crew sizes can be reduced. I would hate to think my job was on the line because of a rule change. Maybe it’s NASCAR that wants the change for themselves. Maybe this gives the the opportunity to cut payroll allowing them to make even more money. I wouldn’t put it past them.
    As always Jeff, love your work and dedication to the sport.

    1. Agree!!! A point is a point and could be invaluable toward the end of the season!! I understand the debris but it’s part of racing/crashing. There’s more to this than meets the eye. NASCAR is making change for the sake of change sometimes. I think we all understand what comes with those speeds and 3/4 cars wide. Maybe they should drive 50 mph and 2 wide!!!

  5. JJ would have missed out on 2-3 championship with crash and go home! Only plus side I see to it.

  6. One glaring downside to crash and park is sponsor exposure and impressions. Crashed cars, especially back of pack crashes, get more views than clean running “also rams.” So, I’m aligned to the competitive positives of this change, but sponsor ROI could take some hits…

  7. New rules suck. More reasons not to go or watch.
    My fav driver gets damaged early in race and we have no chance if seeing him re enter race. No thanks, I’m done

  8. How many times can a driver come to pit lane to fix the car? We have all seen the quick repair to stay on the lead lap. Then the car keeps coming back in to try to fix as much as possible. Just wondering?

  9. This seems to put a lot of emphasis on things that can be fixed in five minutes. I think there are a lot of things that are actually relatively minor that still take over 5 minutes to fix and shouldn’t knock someone out of the race. I’ve seen them spend more than five minutes fixing electrical things because it takes that long to diagnose them. I’d hate to see my guy have to go out for a minor electrical thing at Dega, then their is a big wreck with 20 cars going out and he can’t be out there making up the laps and running.

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