Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why shouldn't NASCAR give short-track 'choose' rule a shot?

Sometimes the best ideas are the ones you steal. I think NASCAR needs to steal something from short-track racing.
I saw this in practice Saturday when I went to the Colossal 100 at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway and watched legend Scott Bloomquist win the race and a $50,000 first prize.
It's a common practice at other short tracks, too, and involves the use of a "CHOOSE" sign for restarts.
Anytime the race is slowed for a caution, a lap or two before the green flies again the field is shown the "Choose" sign. At that point, the leader must decide if he wants to line up on the inside or the outside for the double-file restart.
The second-place driver then makes the same choice - he can line up behind the leader or pull alongside to start on the outside of the front row.
If the first two guys go to the inside, the third-place guy can get behind them or go to the outside. The choosing continues right on back through the field. Sometimes this can really shake up the lineup. Drivers have to make quick decisions because once you pull into a line, that's it, and it's time for the next guy to decide.
It adds an element of strategy to the races. So the more I think about it, the more I wonder why that wouldn't be a good thing for NASCAR to take a look at for its big-time races, too.
Now I know for a fact that the idea of double-file restarts for lead-lap cars has at least been discussed at NASCAR's top levels as recently as last year.
In such a plan, cars on the lead lap would all start ahead of lapped cars. If you're going to keep the free pass for the first car a lap down, that allows one driver per caution to make up a lap lost earlier.
Besides, if you're a lap down you got that way because other cars were faster or you had a problem, and that's too bad.
As far as I know, the idea didn't get too far and those who were talking about it would have had the second-place car line up automatically beside first place and so forth like they would at the start of a race.
But how interesting would it be to see NASCAR go to two-wide restarts after all cautions and employ the "choose" rule at the same time?
There are tracks where the leader would likely pick the outside. There are tracks where second, third and even fourth might stay in a preferred line and leave the fifth-place guy a chance to move all the way up in the other lane if he was willing to take the gamble.
It would be fascinating, and it would add another element to races. You'd have to keep restarts single file in the final 10 laps the way they are now. You might even extend that to the final 25 laps, since a guy who's leading that late in the race deserves to keep that advantage that deep into an event.
If nothing else, going to a rule that puts all lead-lap cars at the front of the field ahead of the lapped cars would keep television announcers from telling us every time there's a restart that a guy who's in 14th place is really in more like 28th for restart with the lapped cars to the inside.
More than that, it would have the best cars racing each other more often in a race, and that's the kind of competition that has made NASCAR as popular as it is.
The perfect race to try this would be the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge next month at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
I know that won't happen, since such a change would be too radical to happen that soon.
Maybe next year. Or maybe it could be tried out in the Truck Series at some point, just so fans and drivers could get used to the concept at the NASCAR level. Or maybe somebody can explain to me why it wouldn't work at racing's top levels, even though it seems to work just fine on hundreds of tracks all over the country every week.


Anonymous said...

I agree David, we used it at my home track...the oddest NASCAR has used is allowing the "Pole position" to go to the "outside" pole...what's up with THAT?! in all my years of racing I have never herd of such a thing

Monkeesfan said...

Here is why NASCAR should not use a CHOOSE rule - it is far too confusing and prone to seeing drivers cheat on restarts.

The restart rule should be basic - double file based on track position, the lapped cars in the back.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR has certainly implemented far less legitimate ideas in the name of entertianment over the past couple of years, so I'm intruiged by this one. I especially like the point you make regarding racing at the restarts...having the drivers in contention all together at the front would be more interesting than watching the third place guy get "hung up in traffic."

Anonymous said...

I think it should be a double file restart all the way to the 43rd place, just like it is at the start of a race.

Anonymous said...

Someone within NASCAR is thinking along similar lines and they are using the Busch Grand National North & West Series as the test bed. In July last year both series started using a new rule that places all cars on a restart in double file. All lead lap cars to the front and lapped cars to the rear.

In addition they started their version of the lucky dog (“beneficiary” rule) for the first car a lap down.

“We have instituted these changes in an effort to improve the competition in the Grand National Division,” said Don Hawk, NASCAR Director of Regional Racing Development. “These changes give more competitors the chance to race wheel to wheel, fender to fender and have a more exciting product for the fans.

“I believe it gives more drivers a chance to be on the lead lap, it gets the lapped cars away from the leaders and allows both groups a race within a race,”
said Hawk.

I tend to agree this should be part of Cup. The times when a lapped car gets in the way after a late race restart are countless. With this procedure that would never happen.

Even if this were modified for only the last 20-50 laps (dependant on track lenght) of Cup events it would be an improvement.

I'm not sure the "Choose" rule is feasable, maybe just a selection of inside or outside lanes with the selection made by the leader at the caution.

Angela said...

That sounds very interesting - I think trying it at the All-Star Challenge is a perfect way to test its viability at this level of competition. But it adds a new excitement each time the caution comes out, which would be helpful during many races.

Anonymous said...

The "choose" rule is too WWF like, but I do think a double file restart with leader having the option to choose inside or outside is something that is long overdue in Nascar.

Anonymous said...

Double file restarts!!! Do it! The tweak I would make would be that the "free pass" or "lucky dog" rule applies to the first car 1 lap down and the first car multiple laps down....


Whatever said...

The choose rule seems a litte too out there but I wholeheartedly agree that it's past time for Cup to go to doublefile restarts.

It's a shame when leaders jump out to 3 and 4 second leads late in races at all of these 1.5 miles tracks just because most of the top ten is hung up with lapped cars.

Single file restarts should have gone out when the lucky dog rule came in. It only makes sense.

gas28man said...

It's a little-known fact -- or at least, it was the last time I checked -- that NASCAR allows every pole winner to choose whether he starts the race inside or outside. I think Newman chose the outside at Darlington or Atlanta a couple of years back, and it was the first time anyone had done it in years. It's one of those obscure and overlooked rules that quite a few of the teams don't even know about.

But this applies only to the start of the race. David's suggestion for introducing the "Choose" option late in the race is very interesting, and a pretty cool way to shake things up IMHO.

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