NASCAR officials announced two competition updates Thursday afternoon, including permanent implementation of the ‘choose rule’ beginning this weekend, as well as a new performance-based method for setting starting line-ups.
Drivers will have the option to choose the inside or outside lane for restarts, on all tracks except for road courses and the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega. They must make their decision by a designated spot on the track. Cup Series drivers had their first taste of the ‘choose rule’ last month during the All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and some drivers, like winner Chase Elliott, made clear they wanted to see the rule stick around.
“I don’t think there’s really a reason not to have it,” said Elliott at the time. “There’s no reason to me why you shouldn’t have the choice, or you should be automatically told where you’re going to line up when one lane has an obvious advantage just based on where you come off pit road.
“To me, life isn’t fair, but it just makes way more sense to put it in our hands. It either works out for you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work out, it’s your own fault, not the luck of the draw, where you come off pit road.”
The ‘choose rule’ is designed to give drivers the choice of where they want to restart when there is a clear dominant lane. To avoid being stuck in a bad spot, teams have counted cars coming off pit road and had their driver give up a position if necessary to get the right odd or even restart number.
“Finally,” said Joey Logano on its full-time use. “I’ve been looking for this for years, brought it up in meetings for years. To see it come into action at Bristol is something that I thought went really smooth, was exciting and interesting to see the decisions drivers made, and it was different every time. There might be some races that it looks identical to what it is right now where third is on the inside, fourth is on the outside. That could happen. It might be every other. But I think every now and again there might be two or three cars lined up in one row and (someone) sitting with the opportunity to move up one or two rows.
“It definitely adds another piece to the strategy, and even more importantly it has everyone not doing the whole stopping at the end of pit road and letting the car go by. For one, it’s not safe to stop at the end of pit road with everyone jumping over the wall and having cars swerve like that. Two, that’s not racing. The goal should be to be in front of whatever car is front of you, not let one go at the end of pit road to have the outside or inside lane. That’s backward. You don’t want to do that.”
Officials also announced that beginning at the Daytona road course next week, a competition-based performance matrix will set the starting line-ups. It will determine the pole award and pit stall selection for each race, replacing the random draws.
Here are the specifics on how it will work:
- 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 percent; finishing position at 50 percent; fastest race lap at 15 percent.
When the playoffs begin next month, all playoff drivers will fill the top starting positions. In the Round of 16, the top 16 starting positions will be playoff cars. The same will be true for the Round of 12 and so on.
“Considering feedback from teams, drivers and fans, NASCAR has implemented these changes to enhance competition as we approach the playoffs,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “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 line-ups are based on performance as we approach the playoffs. The entire industry is aligned on implementing a competition-based system to determine the starting line-up and pit selection order.”