NASCAR puts an end to Ross Chastain’s Martinsville move among other rule changes

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 30: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Moose Fraternity Chevrolet, rides the wall on the final lap of the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The biggest headline to come out of NASCAR’s rule changes for the upcoming 2023 isn’t actually a change to the rulebook at all. Instead, NASCAR says that it will change the interpretation of its catch-all safety rule to enforce it against any driver attempting such a move.

“This is not new language,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said at the NASCAR R&D Center. “But basically, if there is an act that we feel compromises the safety of our competitors, officials, spectators — we’re going to take that seriously. And we will penalize for that act going forward.”

He clarified explicitly: “So that move in Martinsville would be a penalty in 2023.”

The rule in question is Rule, which, in full, says: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM. Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing, on track Monday, January 16, 2023, during the opening day of the two-day Goodyear Tire test at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. Photo credit: NASCAR at COTA / Adam Davis.

But some things have actually been changed. Top of that list is the removal of cautions for stage breaks at road courses. Instead of bunching the field up and breaking the flow of the race, NASCAR will just award points as normal at the end of a designated lap, but continue green-flag racing.

Sawyer said that the cautions “took an element of strategy away from the event,” particularly on road courses, and he says that he “felt this would bring some new storylines.”

The only exceptions throughout all of NASCAR’s top three divisions will be the Xfinity Series races at Portland and Road America, and the Truck Series race at Mid-Ohio. All three races are not alongside the Cup Series and feature non-live pit stops, where the order is already frozen during scheduled service times to limit the amount of pit crew needed when the other series are elsewhere.

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 06: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, pit during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Also noteworthy is a change to the penalties for a wheel coming off the car. While in 2022, that resulted in an immediate four-race suspension for the crew chief and two members of the pit crew, NASCAR will be more lenient this year. If it comes off on pit road, it requires either starting from the rear of the field under yellow or an extra pass down pit road under green. If it comes off on the track, two crew members – now explicitly the ones directly responsible – will still be out, but only for two races this time, and the crew chief can stay. Such suspensions now only impact the relevant series, too.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy has been increased by a minute. Teams now have seven minutes to make repairs and meet minimum speed before being removed from the event. Plus, ‘encroaching’ the pit stall of another driver to hamper their ability to make repairs can result in a penalty.

The Playoff eligibility rule has been changed to include all full-time drivers. Previously, drivers had to be in the top 30 in points to qualify based on a win. That is no longer the case.

The restart zone will be enlarged by 50%. Also related to restart procedure, the choose rule will be added to dirt tracks and superspeedways.

DOVER, DELAWARE – MAY 01: The NASCAR Track Drying Team works to dry the track during a rain delay in the NASCAR Cup Series DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne at Dover Motor Speedway on May 01, 2022 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Most interestingly for the future, though, is the addition of rain tires for short ovals. Previously only seen on road courses, they are now available on all tracks a mile or less, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway for All-Star weekend, Phoenix Raceway, Richmond Raceway, The Milwaukee Mile and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Windshields wipers will also be added as well. They will not be required for the Clash exhibition race, but they will be mandatory at Phoenix later in the season.

Owen Johnson