NASCAR to begin double-file restarts
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR will implement double-file restarts with the leaders up front beginning with Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.
Series director John Darby recently told ESPN.com that the governing body was looking at using the system that worked so well in the All-Star race.
Officials distributed on Sunday at Dover the outline for procedures that would be used at all Sprint Cup races. "We've heard the fans loud and clear: 'double-file restarts -- shootout style' are coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series," NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said. "This addition to the race format is good for competition and good for the fans."
Under the proposed system, all restarts would be double-file with leaders up front and lapped cars behind them. That would avoid leaders having to deal with lapped traffic on the inside on restarts, which currently is the case, or cars trapped at the end of the lead lap starting ahead of the race leader.
The race leader would have the choice of which lane to restart from as he does at the start of the race. The third-place car would always start on the inside lane.
This would eliminate single-file restarts with 20 laps to go. No change is planned in the "lucky dog" rule, in which the first car a lap down gets back on the lead lap after a caution, except now the free pass will be awarded the entire race. In the past, it was not used on the final 10 laps.
Many competitors and owners welcome the change. Felix Sabates, the minority owner of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, said two weeks ago he would start immediately.
"I'm excited about it," two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart said. "The good thing is that when they drop the green, you're going to be racing with the guys you're racing for position instead of trying to clear lapped cars.
"Since NASCAR has adapted the 'free pass,' I think that's something that now justifies being able to put those lapped cars to the back and let them race with each other, and let the guys who are racing on the lead lap do the same. I'm behind NASCAR 100 percent on this."
Kevin Harvick is glad NASCAR is listening to the fans.
"These new restart procedures are going to make our sport even more exciting than it already is," he said. "This will not only benefit the lead lap cars, but also the cars that go a lap down, so you get the best of both worlds."
But not everybody was in favor of the change. "In my opinion I think it hurts our racing," three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said when the idea was first broached. "As a lap down car you need a chance to try to fight to get your lap back and I like that option that the inside lane has the lapped cars and if you are down a lap you can try to get in there and race for it or two laps.
"I do think some aspects of it is very helpful and I think it's good for the All-Star race, but I like what we have." Juan Pablo Montoya agreed.
"I think if you're racing for points it's crazy," he said. "I think if you're racing for money it's OK, because nobody cares. I think if you have a dominant car all day, it's kind of frustrating to go double-side race starts.
"If you're running first, the guy second just pins you down and you get really loose and you end up fourth or something like that. I think it would be kind of stupid, but I don't make the rules."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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