published Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Young: NASCAR’s new restart plan intriguing

What’s your take on the new NASCAR rule that calls for double-file restarts?

The rule, which will have lead-lap cars restart double-file, with lapped cars in the rear, is a direct result of the recent NASCAR “town hall meeting” with drivers and owners and the populartity of the restarts at the all-star race in Charlotte.

“We’ve heard the fans loud and clear,” NASCAR chairman Brian France said Thursday. “Double-file restarts, shootout-style, are coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This addition to the race format is good for competition and good for the fans.”

The new format begins Sunday at Pocono. Drivers are somewhat mixed on the rule, which is designed to eliminate lapped cars from holding up the leaders on restarts.

“I’m excited about it,” Cup points leader Tony Stewart said. “The good thing is that when they drop the green, you’re going to be racing with the guys you’re racing for position instead of trying to clear lapped cars.”

Added Jeff Burton: “The reason the cars are a lap down is generally because they were too slow to stay on the lead lap. Now you are going to be racing people that are fast and it is going to make it a lot harder. It is going to make it way more competitive. It is just going to make it a lot harder. You are going to see bigger shifts late in the race from a guy running fifth to finishing 12th or a guy running 12th and finishing fifth.”

The rule does have its detractors. Some say it really punishes teams that get lapped in that it forces them to race all day at the back of the field.

“I think it’s really unfair,” Juan Pablo Montoya said. “If you’re running, if you don’t go a lap down, it’s good. If you go a lap down, you’re going to go two laps down, you’re going to go three laps down, you’re going to go four laps down before they catch anybody else.”

There are two other interesting facets to the rule. One is that the leader has the choice on restarts whether to start on the inside or outside of row one, a huge advantage on some tracks. The other is something to help the lapped cars stay competitive. We’ll let Jimmie Johnson explain:

“The way I understand it, when the caution comes out, lead lap cars will pit,” he said. “Then lap-down cars will have their chance to pit a second time by. At that point, any car could choose to stay out to try to get a lap back. When you come to one to go, the cars that are in front of the leader will be waved around and they’ve got to come back and fall in at the tail end of the line of cars. So at that point, the wave-around will take place and we go back to green.

“I think as a lap-down car you need a chance to try to fight to get your lap back, and I like that option that the inside lane has the lapped cars and if you are a lap down you can try to get in there and race for it. That’s because sometimes if you are two laps out you don’t have a chance at the Lucky Dog, and if you have a great race car, you will never have a chance if you are starting at the tail end each time.”

That would seem like a no-brainer, but giving up a pit stop to get a lap back has its risks, especially on the shorter tracks. Again, Johnson puts it in perspective:

“The biggest concern is to not give the people that get the wave-around an advantage. We want cars on the lead lap. On the small track if you go two (laps down) and you get the wave-around, there’s no way they’re going to have a chance to pit. And now they’re only a half-lap ahead of you and you’re on new tires and you’re going to catch them and run them down. So in most cases it’s going to be a risky move.”

But one that should add some intrigue.

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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streetsmart said...

In respone to Juan Pablo Montoya's comment. Isn't that what racing is all about ? The best car/driver wins!

June 6, 2009 at 5:33 a.m.
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