NASCAR Announces Big Changes Including Choose Rule

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - JULY 15: Alex Bowman, driver of the #88's Polishes Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, lead the field on a pace lap prior to the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 15, 2020 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR announced two competition procedure changes Thursday that it will implement ahead of the Playoffs in all three-national touring series.

In a press release, series officials said that all three national series will use a ‘choose rule’ for restarts except at road courses and the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega. The procedure will be in place starting with Cup Series and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series events scheduled this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

The choose rule was first used at the national series level in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 15. The first points-paying Cup Series race for the restart procedure will be Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 the first of two events in a Cup Series weekend doubleheader at the 2-mile Michigan track.

The ‘choose rule’ procedure — which had earlier been limited to local and weekly racing competition — offers a strategy play that gives drivers the option to start on either the inside or outside lane in a double-file restart. Drivers can opt for the preferred groove or make a bid for track position in the non-preferred lane.

In Bristol’s All-Star event, race officials painted an orange “V” and box as a designated commitment point not far from the start-finish line on the track’s frontstretch. Competition officials said the same marking will be used at Michigan and beyond.

“It will essentially look the same,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “There will be a few subtle differences to handle wave-arounds and free passes and a full field of cars, which we didn’t have at the All-Star event. But it will look very much the same. It will be exactly the same up front, but just some subtleties to handle wave-around, free pass and things like that.”

The rules will be in effect for all the remaining events except for the road courses/rovals and Daytona and Talladega, two superspeedways where aerodynamic drafting is most prominent. Miller said the reasons for excluding the ‘choose rule’ process from those venues differ.

“There’s a couple of differences for each one of them,” Miller said. “For superspeedways, as we have all seen in the past, teamwork is kind of a key thing, whether that be between cars of the same manufacturer or cars of the same team, and if we have the choose rule there, we would just sort of be enabling them to get together much easier on a restart, and we feel like it’s probably much better to have that happen organically with a standard starting procedure.

“Road courses are a little bit different situation. We will get the field to choose at the call from the tower of ‘one to go,’ and we do that sometimes at remote locations on a road course so we can get back to green quicker, and we wouldn’t have the ability to sort of manage the choose with the remote ‘one to go’ location, so we won’t be able to manage that so we opted out on the road courses.”

As with the All-Star Race, if a driver fails to commit to a lane before the painted box or change lanes after the mark, the driver would be penalized by restarting at the tail end of the longest line. The choose rule will also not be in effect for the initial start of each race.

As for drivers, feelings seem to be mixed.

“There are parts I really like about it,” Brad Keselowski said Thursday. “There are parts I don’t so much like about it.  I really would like to get some reps on it and then take it from there.  I was probably a little more hopeful that it would go to a lower series first and they could work the bugs out, but that’s okay.  I don’t know what I don’t know and that’s what makes me most nervous.”

Also, starting with the Daytona Road Course event, NASCAR will now use three competition-based performance metrics to determine the starting lineup – including the pole in the NASCAR Cup Series and the pole in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series – and pit selection order for each race, replacing the random draw procedure that has been in place for a majority of races since NASCAR’s return to racing at Darlington Raceway in May.

NASCAR will reward both season-long and single-race performance to determine the lineup and pit selection, using owner points position and the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

The metrics will be weighted and averaged to establish the starting order. Points position will be weighted at 35%; finishing position at 50%; fastest race lap at 15%.

When the Playoffs begin, Playoff cars will fill the top starting positions. For instance, in the Round of 16, the top 16 starting positions will be Playoff cars; in the Round of 12, the top 12 starting positions will be Playoff cars; and so on.

“Considering feedback from teams, drivers and fans, NASCAR has implemented these changes to enhance competition as we approach the Playoffs,” said Miller. “We received nothing but positive comments from the drivers on the choose rule following the All-Star Race, and felt it was an important addition to the restart procedure. The random draw has served us well during the return to racing, but it is important that starting lineups are based on performance as we approach the Playoffs. The entire industry is aligned on implementing a competition-based system to determine the starting lineup and pit selection order.”