NASCAR changes another step forward for the sport
Once again, NASCAR is stepping up its game.
On Wednesday, NASCAR officials confirm and clarified procedures for 2017 during a preseason meeting with media outlets.
Certainly, there was significant promise entering 2017 NASCAR season. From new sponsor Monster Energy taking over entitlement naming rights of the Cup Series to Carl Edwards’ shocking announcement to stop driving, there was no shortage of news in the so-called ‘offseason’.
NASCAR provided detailed changes to competition, rules officiating and safety methods at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.
Traveling safety team
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Office Steve O’Donnell kicked off the seminar with the news of a partnership with American Medical Response (AMR) to enhance its at-track medical car of drivers and crew members at NASCAR events.
The alliance provides an additional step to improving medical care of drivers and the ability to monitor a driver’s condition from the incident at the track through their treatment and aftercare of the incident.
O’Donnell detailed how the new partnership will serve to improve the level of care already provided at tracks that host NASCAR events. Now, a licensed medical doctor and paramedics will ride along NASCAR track services to respond to an on-track incident.
While NASCAR isn’t the first racing organization in the U.S. to implement a traveling medical staff, it’s a welcome addition in providing the best care possible to the drivers.
As first reported by Motorsport.com reporter Lee Spencer, NASCAR also provided details on one of the biggest changes for this season – damaged cars competing in races. Starting in Daytona a car that has to go to the garage due to accident damage will not be allowed to return to competition. This is a big change from previous years when teams could almost rebuild the body of a car before returning to action.
The new rule limits body work to cars only on pit road with a five-minute time limit. Only original parts can be used to repair the car. Teams will also have to follow pit road speed when coming in for service. A penalty of 15 seconds to be added to the five-minute time limit for speeding or hitting the commitment cone.
Also announced was a new procedure for pre-race inspections. Previously if a team fails a stage in pre-race inspection they could work on the issue and just go back to the inspection stage they failed. Now if a car fails any of the stages, they must go back through all stages of pre-race inspection.
While most old-school fans — and even some newer fans — have complained about constant changes every year to the race formats and points structures, the dwindling television ratings and track attendance proved that something needed to be done. I applaud NASCAR for thinking outside of the box.
Whether or not the changes work, NASCAR and its partners deserve the opportunity to see how the new formats and points structure evolve and whether fans are engaged in the process. The proof will come in increased fan traffic.
Stages and bonus points
More details also explained on how points will be awards during the regular season and segments for races at Daytona International Speedway.
Some changes may take some getting used to such as the Daytona 500 being declared an official race after the second segment, which will be Lap 120 instead of Lap 100 the old halfway point of the race.
Drivers will be awarded playoff points for winning a segment (1) to winning the race (5) and those points will be carried over to the playoffs. Done are the days of bonus points for leading a lap or the most laps, etc. Hopefully, the segment points will add to the excitement midway through a 500-mile race on a 1.5-mile track.
The top-10 finishers will also get bonus playoff points after the regular season ends at Richmond International Raceway as a reward for their accomplishment. This is something drivers and fans alike have asked for since the inception of the ‘Chase’ which will be now be replaced by Playoffs.
These changes, along with aerodynamic modifications already announced last year, could make for some exciting races or big headaches for NASCAR officials. One thing is certain, though, the 2017 season will be unlike any other we’ve seen in NASCAR and I hope that equals better racing.
The racing has been competitive and watchable for an older viewer like myself, but for today’s millennial fan, hopefully, some of these changes will attract their attention. Something NASCAR and the entire industry desperately need.
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