Thursday, June 4, 2009

NASCAR adds Double-File Restarts in the Cup Series – Part One: First reaction.

For years now in NASCAR, fans have been seeing double-files starts only used in non-points races like the NASCAR All-Star race and just about each time the double-file restarts have produced some of the unpredictable racing fans have seen and there has been no race more memorable than this past May’s NASCAR All-Star race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

In the final 10 laps, there were a few restarts and each time fans never really know what was going to happen next and that’s the way racing should be, on one restart, you had Kyle Busch shout to the outside of Matt Kenseth and try and take the lead, on the second restart, Kyle Busch switched it up and went to the inside making it three-wide, which was just funny to watch, ultimately it was Tony Stewart with 2 laps to go passed Matt Kenseth going through turns 1-2 to take the lead, set sail and win his first race as an driver/owner.

After seeing what double-file restarts do for the competition in the All-Star race, fans would email, call and comment online that NASCAR should enable double-file restarts and I understand what they are saying, considering I am one of them. Normally in a race not counting the drop of the green flag, fans would normally see the lead lap cars line up single file on the outside with the lap down cars on the inside. It was always a challenge for the lead lap cars to get clear of the lap cars, it was rare to see a lap car actually get in front of the leader and earn his lap back.

Mostly it was the leader and maybe the second place car would clear the lap traffic and set sail leaving a 1-2-3 second lead before the other lead lap cars could clear.

So after listening to the fans, media, drivers and owners say that they would like to see double-file restarts, today NASCAR announced “Double-File Restarts – Shootout Style” for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series begins this week at Pocono Raceway.

From the press release: Under the new format, the race leader will have the option to restart on the inside or outside lane. The second-place driver would then restart next to the leader.

Regardless of where the leader starts, drivers in odd number positions (3rd, 5th, 7th places, etc.) will restart on the inside lane, while drivers in even number positions (4th, 6th, 8th places, etc.) will restart on the outside. All restarts will use the same format regardless of the number of laps remaining in the race.

The first-place driver will continue to control the timing of restarts in a designated zone on the track. Likewise, cars are to stay in line until they reach the start/finish line. The first eligible car a lap or more down will continue to earn one lap back following a caution, which is known as the “free pass.” However, a new element beginning this week will be that the “free pass” will remain in effect the entire race.

Also, lapped cars choosing to remain on the track will be “waved around” the caution car and will restart the race in respective track position, thus picking up a lap to the leader provided the leader also pits. This will also remove lapped cars from behind the pace car, allowing the leaders to take the green without interference. (NASCAR PR)

Since I am one of those fans who have suggested this is in the past and want to see this, I am excited about this change, double-file restarts should add a new element to these long races and NASCAR has with the edition of the free pass and the waved around create a good way to deal with lap cars.

Now two questions, first, what will this yield for results starting this weekend at Pocono? Second, what racetracks will double-file restarts NOT be used on? I’m thinking it’s a question mark on road courses and short tracks like Martinsville. At Martinsville for example, it’s a half-mile, so with lap cars already in the back, it will take no time for the leaders to caught them and pass them again, of course that does help for lead lap cars because they will have a small buffer between them and the leader.