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.