Change limits subjectivity in enforcement of restart rules

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Double Mint Gum Toyota, lead the field on a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2013 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

JOLIET, IL – SEPTEMBER 15: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Double Mint Gum Toyota, lead the field on a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2013 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

JOLIET, Ill.–NASCAR announced a significant change to its rules for restarts at the drivers’ meeting before Sunday’s GEICO 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway–a change that will no longer require he lead driver to arrive first at the start/finish line.

Here’s how it works:

The lead driver, who controls the restart, must put power down in a restart zone defined by red lines on speedway walls. The length of the restart zone is pit road speed times two. In other words, if pit road speed is 45 mph, the length of the restart zone is 90 feet.

Once the lead car has restarted within the zone, the flagman will display the green flag, and racing resumes. Cars must stay in their respective lanes until they reach the start/finish line, but the second-place car is now allowed to arrive first.

In the regular-season finale Sept. 6 at Richmond, Carl Edwards was first to the stripe on the final restart by nearly a full car length over race leader Paul Menard, who had spun his tires. NASCAR opted not to penalize Edwards with a drive-through, recognizing that Menard had issues on older tires.

It was a judgment call nevertheless, and NASCAR president Mike Helton said on a pre-race interview on ESPN that the sanctioning body made the change “to narrow up the subjectivity that NASCAR might or should be able have to make a call.”

“The difference now is,” Helton said, “we’ve taken away some of the subjectivity where we’ve had to make a call on whether or not that second-place car legitimately or should be able (to beat the first-place car to the line)–(as) in the case of the 99 car (Edwards) last weekend, where our interpretation of what happened on the restart led us not to react to the 99 car.”

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