New NASCAR Rules, Rolex 24, Bruton Smith Make Close Finishes Radar

Clharlotte, NC – Rules. Some make more sense than others. In the end, we all try to live by them.

This year, NASCAR has come up with some new directives they hope will better shape the sport. They?re not earth shattering, but are a step in the right direction for the most part.

Here?s a look at what?s new and how it will change things on race weekends this season –

NASCAR will allow each team 200 tires (50 sets) for testing at non-NASCAR Cup event tracks this season.

When it comes to testing, NASCAR teams are like pet rabbits ? tests seem to multiply at alarming rates. When not at sanctioned tests like the ones at Las Vegas and California this week, NASCAR Sprint Cup teams are constantly on the road testing at places like Kentucky Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile, USA International Raceway in Lakeland, FL, Greenville (SC) Pickens Speedway and Virginia International Raceway.

Recently, those tests never produced totally accurate results as other tire brands besides race-ready Goodyear Eagles/Wranglers had to be used thanks to a previous NASCAR tire embargo. That produced data that didn?t directly match the end-game results when the teams showed up at the track to race.

Race teams – especially the engineers – hate that.

While there are always going to be drawbacks to any rule (only because someone will find a loophole or a way around the system), the new NASCAR testing tire allotment is a step in the right direction. It allows teams to collect valid data that will directly translate on raceday. That’s what testing is all about.

Another rule change we applaud is having the tire carriers maintaining contact with the right-side tires back to the pit wall during a pit stop.

In the past, the changer, carrier or jackman were allowed to ?roll? a discarded right-side tire toward pit wall where another designated crew member would catch it. While increasing the speed of pit stops, this activity led to the tires hitting other pit crew members, contact between errant tires and a car/truck, and subsequent penalties imposed by NASCAR for those actions.

This rule might slow things down a nano-second or two, but it?s safer for all and makes for a cleaner race up in race control. A small, but significant improvement here.

Another good call ? The next time your favorite driver climbs out of the car after sticking it firewall deep in the fence and says – ?That S.O.B.(fill in the name of your favorite driver) just wrecked my #$#$&#! ass. He can?t drive for #%&!,? – the money NASCAR fines him/her will now go to charity instead of being paid to the teams in the season-ending point fund.

Let?s hope the next change to this particular rule is for NASCAR to stop issuing the always open to interpretation point?s penalties that go with such driver actions. Those kinds of punishments for real emotion, non-corporate speak, heat of the moment comments can decide championships somewhere other than the racetrack. That should never happen.

NASCAR also announced that teams outside the top 35 in points will qualify together at the end of each time trial session at every race beginning at California. That means the top 35 locked in to the race will qualify first followed by the special session for the newcomers, part-timers and those unlucky enough to not have a guaranteed spot.

While this will take some of the variables out of the equation such as time of day, weather, etc., any change to this rule is foreign to us as long as 35 cars are ‘locked’ into the field. No rant here today. We just think lining them all up and letting go the fastest 30, 35, 40, 43, 45 and let them race.

It’s the fairest for everyone involved and gives the fans the best show.

Two other items this week….

We took in a bunch of the Rolex 24 from Daytona on the tube this weekend. Pretty cool stuff.

Gotta wonder what those cats in the back were thinking wrecking before the start of the race. Wrecking on the first lap of a 500-mile NASCAR race is a cardinal sin. What can it be on a 24-hour race? Would have loved to be a part of those team radio transmissions Saturday.

The race was compelling enough for us to tune in for long stretches regardless of how hard it was to listen to announcer Leigh Diffey.

How cool was it to see a carnival set up inside Turn 2 at Daytona? Wish there was going to be something like that for the 50th-Annual Daytona 500 when we’re down there in a couple of weeks.

Seriously, the race was interesting even if the same team always wins (Chip Ganassi). Don?t look now, but the Rolex Series is growing thanks to the direction and promotional might of parent company International Speedway Corporation.

Finally, a tip of the hat to O. Bruton Smith.

The venerable racing entrepenur last week unveiled plans for his new dragway adjacent to Lowes Motor Speedway outside of Charlotte. The multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art facility will open this coming September with a NHRA championship event.

Smith staged a stare down with local officials to get the new dragway built and the locals blinked. Instead of moving everything as threatened, Smith got what he wanted and the locals got something too ? additional jobs and tax revenue ? thanks to untold number of successful drag racing events for years to come.

The price ? some noise to the locals (already used to such things from the oval tracks on the property) and current tax dollars to enact infrastructure improvements (also a benefit to the locals) such as pedestrian tunnels, additional connector roads, and current road widening projects.

Sounds like a winner for everyone to us.

Kudos to Smith, who continues to set the standard in racing for his vision and the ability to achieve great construction works in short periods of time. Now if we could only get him to take over the I-485 project around Charlotte and get that completed by September, that would really be something.

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