The NASCAR Playoffs will take on a different complexion with two new procedural changes to the competition.
The "choose rule” will be incorporated into race restarts, beginning this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. The rule—which allows each driver to choose the inside or outside lane, either preferring the dominant line or maintaining (or improving) track position for restarts—will be used for all national series except at road courses and superspeedways (Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway). A driver must commit to his or her lane prior to approaching the designated choose cone/sign at each track.
NASCAR tested the procedure last month during the All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“There are parts I really like about it,” said last Sunday’s New Hampshire winner Brad Keselowski. “There are parts I don’t so much like about it. I really would like to get some reps on it and then take it from there.
“I was probably a little more hopeful that it would go to a lower series first, and they could work the bugs out, but that’s okay. I don’t know what I don’t know, and that’s what makes me most nervous.”
NASCAR is also moving beyond the “random draw” for qualifying, starting with next week’s events at the Daytona Road Course. NASCAR will combine three competition-based performance metrics to determine the starting lineup and pit selection for each race, including season-long and single-race performance, owner points position, and the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.
According to the release, “The metrics will be weighted and averaged to establish the starting order. Points position will be weighted at 35%; finishing position at 50%; fastest race lap at 15%.”
Once the Playoffs begin, Playoff drivers will secure the top 16 positions, with four drivers/spots being eliminated from each round through the final four drivers in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
“Considering feedback from teams, drivers and fans, NASCAR has implemented these changes to enhance competition as we approach the Playoffs,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “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. 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. The entire industry is aligned on implementing a competition-based system to determine the starting lineup and pit selection order.”
NASCAR also released the Playoff schedule on Thursday with all 10 Cup races remaining intact.
DATE TRACK DISTANCE START (ET)
Sun, Sept. 6 Darlington 501 mi 6:00 PM
Sat, Sept 12 Richmond 300 mi 7:30 PM
Sat, Sept. 19 Bristol 266 mi 7:30 PM
Sun, Sept. 27 Las Vegas 400 mi 7:00 PM
Sun, Oct. 4 Talladega 500 mi 2:00 PM
Sun, Oct. 11 Charlotte Roval 253 mi 2:30 PM
Sun, Oct. 18 Kansas 400 mi 2:30 PM
Sun, Oct. 25 Texas 501 mi 3:30 PM
Sun, Nov. 1 Martinsville 263 mi 2:00 PM
Sun, Nov. 8 Phoenix 312 mi 3:00 PM