With the Daytona 500 a little more than a week away, NASSCAR is still making major rule changes.
Prior to the cars getting on the track, they must pass rigid laser inspections. Previously, if a team fails a stage in pre-race inspection they could work on the issue and just go back to the inspection stage they failed. Now if a car fails any of the stages, they must go back through all stages of pre-race inspection. This will no doubt create havoc for teams as any delay in getting onto the track for practice could cause them to miss their turn for qualifying.
One of the changes I like is the damaged vehicle policy. Previously, wrecked cars could go back to their garages for repairs and return to the track dozens of laps down. These cars were no longer competitive. They were just logging laps hoping to gain one or two points. Most of the time they were a hindrance to the rest of the field, either getting in the way, or dropping body parts onto the track causing cautions for debris.
Under the guidelines, teams no longer will be allowed to replace damaged body parts that are the result of accidents or contact. Repairs, such as fixing damaged sheet metal, will be allowed. However, teams will be given five minutes to fix damage once they enter pit road. If the damage requires the car to go behind pit wall or to the garage for repairs, the car will not be allowed to return to the race.
Also, if the repairs take longer than the five minutes allowed, the car will not be permitted to return to the race. Once repairs have been made, a car is still required to maintain the minimum speed determined for that event. Teams will be allowed to correct mechanical or electrical failures that aren’t the result of an accident or contact without penalty. Such repairs may be done on pit road or in the garage area, and the five-minute clock will not be in play in those instances.
How these changes play out remains to be seen, but NASCAR is hoping the new format will improve TV ratings and fan approval. Twitter is already ablaze with fans mostly showing disapproval but it will take three or four races to see how it goes.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing will get started tomorrow night with the Advance Auto Parts Clash. This is a non-points event featuring drivers who won 2016 poles, past Clash winners, and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016.
Carl Edwards is eligible but has stepped away from full-time Cup racing. NASCAR has allowed his replacement, Daniel Suarez, to drive in the race. A total of 17 drivers will be in the Clash. The 75-lap, 187.5-mile race will be split into two segments. A competition caution at Lap 25 will separate the segments.
As Darrell Waltrip, a three-time NASCAR champion, and current NASCAR broadcaster would put it, “Let’s go racing, boys.”