Last week the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series took its final off week, which gives me time to update some of the issues that have developed over the year.
Rules have always been in the news as NASCAR changes them from week to week. One of the changes is Cup driver participation limits in the Xfinity and Truck series for 2018.
When Cup drivers race in the lower NASCAR Series, they generally dominate the race. Not only are they more experienced drivers, they always have the best equipment. Starting in 2018, any drivers with more than five years of full-time experience in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be limited to a maximum of seven races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and five races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Any drivers, regardless of experience level, who are eligible for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points will be ineligible to compete in the regular season finale and playoff races in each series, as well as the Dash 4 Cash races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Changes to the penalty system are always a sore spot for the drivers and fans alike. Failed inspections, loose lug nuts and encumbered wins have caused a lot of questions for the teams. Crew chiefs always push the limits on car specifications and when they go over the limits, getting through pre-inspection can be a hassle. Cars that fail one portion of the inspection have to go through the complete inspection process again.
This has caused many teams to miss qualification which makes them have to start in the back of the field, but they also lose pit-stall choice. The encumbered win penalty has hit Joey Logano hard. After winning the April Richmond race, a post-race inspection found a rear suspension infraction.
Logano kept the win, the trophy and the prize money, but the penalty did not allow the victory to count for entry into the playoffs. He will have to win one of the two remaining regular-season races in order to qualify.
Stage racing has not changed racing on the track other than team strategy. The points for stage racing give the teams the opportunity to gain more points if needed, but the bonus playoff points make the biggest difference for the drivers.
Martin Truex Jr. has made the most of this rule as his Furniture Row Racing Team has taken advantage of the system. His 35 playoff points will carry over in each segment of the playoffs, just about ensuring him of making the final 4 Championship race.