NASCAR Monday announced several initiatives and procedural updates for the 2019 season, which officially opens this weekend at Daytona International Speedway — Daytona 500 Busch Pole Award Qualifying (12:10 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Among the announcements was NASCAR’s plan to move its thorough post-race inspection to the race track immediately following each national series race. If a vehicle fails post-race inspection, it will be disqualified, resulting in a last-place finish and the loss of all benefits from the win/finish, as well as any stage points. All other vehicles would move up in the finishing order under this scenario. This new post-race inspection procedure will have a goal of being completed 90 minutes after the event.
NASCAR will inspect the first- and second-place vehicles, as well as a random vehicle, after each event. Previously, full post-race inspections took place at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C.
“Our industry understands the need to focus on what happens on the race track,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of competition and racing development. “We cannot allow inspection and penalties to continue to be a prolonged storyline. Race vehicles are expected to adhere to the rule book from the opening of the garage to the checkered flag.”
The disqualification procedure will be implemented for all three NASCAR national series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
NASCAR also unveiled several other competition and personnel updates for 2019:
· O’Donnell announced that the “Generation 7” car in the Monster Energy Series is scheduled to make its debut for the 2021 season and will be designed to feature new technologies and elements that showcase future production vehicles”: “There is a great deal of interest from our current and potential manufacturer partners to make the cars look even more like they do on the street,” O’Donnell said. “This will be an exciting progression in our racing technology that began with the introduction of the 2019 rules package.”
· The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series will feature the “Triple Truck Challenge” this season, a bonus program that takes place at three consecutive races – Texas (June 7), Iowa (June 15) and Gateway (June 22). All drivers earning series points are eligible and drivers who win one of the three races receive a $50,000 bonus. Winning two races nets a driver $150,000 total ($50,000 per race plus a $50,000 bonus), while winning all three races results in a $500,000 total prize ($50,000 per race win, $50,000 bonus for winning twice, plus a $300,000 bonus for sweeping the Challenge races). Monster Energy Series and Xfinity Series drivers are not eligible to compete in the three races of the program.
· NASCAR has implemented a model of series-specific inspectors. Each national series will have a dedicated team of officials who will specialize in inspections for their respective garages.
· Qualifying procedures across all three national series remain the same for 2019, with the exception that the first round of ‘group qualifying’ for short track and intermediate tracks will shorten to 10 minutes in length (previously 15) and the breaks between sessions will be five minutes long (previously seven).
· The national series driver participation guidelines remain mostly unchanged from 2018. Drivers with more than five years of full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series experience are eligible for a maximum of seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts and five NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts. Drivers who elect to accumulate Monster Energy Series points are not eligible to compete in any Dash 4 Cash or Triple Truck Challenge races, or the final eight races in either the Xfinity Series or the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In addition, drivers who earn points in the Xfinity Series are ineligible to compete in Triple Truck Challenge races and the Championship race for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
· Ben Kennedy has been elevated to managing director of racing operations and international development. He previously served as general manager of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. His new responsibilities will include initiatives aimed at growing the sport, including managing NASCAR’s growth on the international scene.
· NASCAR introduced the assistant directors for each series – Kip Childress (Monster Energy Series), Seth Kramlich (Xfinity Series) and Jesse Dollevoet (Gander Outdoors Truck Series).
The 2019 NASCAR season kicks off with “Speedweeks” at Daytona International Speedway. The 10 days of activity in Florida culminates with the 61st running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET (FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).