With the NASCAR playoffs looming, a new restart procedure and method to determining the starting lineup will be in place. On Thursday, the sanctioning body announced the “choose cone” rule will be implemented for restarts starting with the upcoming weekend at Michigan International Speedway. A week later, the Daytona International Speedway road course weekend will utilise a special formula to figure out who will start in what position.
The choose rule was introduced on an experimental basis for July’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Prominent in grassroots short track racing, it allows drivers to select which lane (outside or inside) they wish to start in before they reach a designated spot (an orange “cone”) on the track. Drivers can pick to either start on a preferred lane that has proven to be stronger on restarts or in a poorer restart line but closer to the front.
“Considering feedback from teams, drivers and fans, NASCAR has implemented these changes to enhance competition as we approach the Playoffs,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller stated. “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.”
For the starting lineup, NASCAR will drop the random draw format in favour of a mathematical formula. The random draw, which has been used for all races since the season’s resumption in May outside of certain exceptions like the Coca-Cola 600, has raised eyebrows as some drivers’ luck has consistently placed them at the front.
Although specifics were not given, the formula is weighed based on the driver’s finishing position in the last race (50%), owners’ point position (35%), and the fastest race lap (15%). When the Cup Series playoffs begin, the top starting spots will be filled with playoff drivers, with the Championship Round’s top two rows being the final four title-eligible racers.
“The random draw has served us well during the return to racing, but it is important that starting lineups are based on performance as we approach the Playoffs,” Miller added. “The entire industry is aligned on implementing a competition-based system to determine the starting lineup and pit selection order.”