NASCAR

Ross Chastain Rule, road course stage break deaths among 2023 NASCAR changes

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Credit: Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Ross Chastain riding the wall at Martinsville to clinch a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Round captivated the sports world. Any repeats of it, however, will result in a time penalty.

On Tuesday, NASCAR revealed sweeping rule changes with the 2023 season looming that impacts all three national divisions. For example, the aforementioned “Ross Chastain Rule” was implemented on safety grounds to discourage drivers from intentionally hitting the wall to shave off time.

Perhaps the largest rule change is the removal of stage cautions for road course races. Stage racing’s introduction in 2017 has generated mixed response, with supporters praising its system of rewarding drivers for consistently running up front throughout the day with points while critics mainly single out the two mandatory cautions for negatively impacting the race flow. The latter was especially problematic at road courses, where races are shorter and pit strategy prior to the stage breaks did little to improve the racing product.

Despite the breaks’ removal, stage points will still be awarded. The Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series‘ standalone races at Portland, Mid-Ohio, and Road America will still have the breaks, though said series already do not utilise live pit stops for such rounds.

While the road courses lose stage cautions, the superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega) and dirt tracks (Bristol and Knoxville) gain the choose rule. Nicknamed the “choose cone”, it allows drivers to select on which lane—inside or outside—they would like to restart, with the leaders receiving the first option. Created in 2020, the choose rule was initially limited to intermediate ovals and short tracks. The choose rule will almost certainly shake up superspeedways, where drafting is key, as teams can drivers can pick certain lanes to work with a team-mate if they are nearby when the race resumes.

Should things go awry in the process and a wreck occurs, involved racers will have seven minutes to make repairs, a decrease from the ten minutes for the 2022 playoffs. Teams can also replace toe links while under the Damaged Vehicle Policy but not control arms.

If it rains on an oval, NASCAR intends to have the wet tyre package for certain shorter ovals including this weekend’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, Martinsville Speedway, Milwaukee Mile, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Richmond Raceway will also have the damp setup ready.

Another major adjustment comes in the championship picture as the requirement that Cup Series drivers be in the top thirty in points to be eligible for the playoffs has been dropped; the same has also applied to Xfinity and Trucks, which set the cut off at the top twenty. As such, drivers outside such boundaries can make the playoffs as long as they run full-time or receive a waiver and have won a race, though they would still be virtually eliminated if there are too many winners.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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