The new normal at NASCAR might take some getting used to.
On Tuesday, NASCAR teleconferenced with its teams, then released a competition update to the media detailing procedures for Sunday’s return to racing at Darlington.
In an effort to get the show on the road, NASCAR has adopted changes to the typical conduct of a race to maximize safety.
Although there was speculation that the starting lineup for the 400-mile Cup contest at the Track too Tough to Tame would be set by owner points, the top 36 positions instead will feature a random draw of chartered teams from positions 1-12 in owner points, followed by 13-24 in standings and finally 25-36. The last four spots in the 40-car field will be reserved for open teams in order of owner’s points.
Pit stalls will be selected in advance and based on charter team owner points, followed by open team owner points. The pit boxes will be waiting in the stalls after the teams clear medical inspection.
When the Cup teams return on May 20, pit selection (again completed in advance of the event) will be determined based on the finishing position in Sunday’s race. Any new entries will select based on their point standings. But the games truly begin with the lineup for the second Darlington Cup race. The top 20 finishers from Sunday’s race will be inverted to start next Wedensday's 500-kilometer event. Positions 21-40 will line up based on finishing position from the previous race at Darlington, followed by any new entries.
Qualifying will return for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, with pit selection determined by finishing position from the May 20 race at Darlington. New entries will line up based on points.
Due to the absence of practice before the upcoming events, NASCAR will introduce modified competition cautions for all three of the top touring series for teams to make adjustments to the vehicles. For the Cup return at Darlington, the caution will occur at or around Lap 30. The Xfinity Series (May 19) squads can tune cars on or around Lap 15 at Darlington. The placement of the remaining competition cautions will be determined after NASCAR reviews the initial outcomes.
The fields will be frozen under the competition cautions and line up behind the pace car. While the free pass is still in effect, there will be no wave-arounds. Pit road will open for the top 20 first, followed by the remaining 20 cars, with each team allowed to pit twice during the cycle. NASCAR will re-establish the lineup based on where the cars were running prior to the caution and restart the race.
All current pit road rules will remain in effect. If a driver fails to beat the pace car off of pit road, he will lose a lap and restart at the tail end of the field. A driver who pits more than twice or out of sequence will be sent to the rear.
The stage lengths for the May 17 Darlington race will be 90/185/293. The May 20 Darlington race stages are set for 60/125/228.