Stage racing returns after its debut last year, but there are many changes for the 2018 NASCAR season. With cars on track Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, here’s a look at some of the notable changes this year:
The rookie class features new names in iconic numbers. William Byron takes over the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports, while Darrell Wallace Jr. will drive the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Among those in new rides this year include Aric Almirola taking over the ride Danica Patrick had in the No. 10 at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Ryan Blaney moves to the No. 12 at Team Penske.
Paul Menard replaces Blaney in the No. 21 for the Wood Brothers.
Kasey Kahne joins Leavine Family Racing in the No. 95, taking over for Michael McDowell, who moved to Front Row Motorsports to take over the No. 34 car.
Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports.
Erik Jones joins Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the No. 20 car.
Chase Elliott is back at Hendrick Motorsports but this year he’ll drive the No. 9 car.
MORE: 2018 NASCAR schedules for Cup, Xfinity & Camping World Truck Series
The regular season ends at Indianapolis, taking the spot previously held by Richmond.
The playoffs will have a different look. They open Sept. 16 in Las Vegas before heading to Richmond the following weekend. It marks the first time either track has been in NASCAR’s postseason. The first round ends at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the debut of its roval, which combines the track’s infield road course and high-speed oval.
Dover remains in the playoffs but moves out of the first round and will host the opening race of the second round.
Other changes include Richmond’s spring race returning to Saturday night and Dover’s spring event moves to the first weekend in May.
Richard Petty Motorsports has switched from Ford to Chevrolet and moved into a shop on the Richard Childress Racing campus. RPM also has an alliance with RCR.
Richard Childress Racing has cut from three to two teams and leased a charter to StarCom Racing, which is set for its first full-time season.
Team Penske adds a third Cup car to accommodate the addition of Ryan Blaney.
Rick Ware Racing will race the full schedule after leasing a charter from Richard Petty Motorsports.
Furniture Row Racing goes back to a one-car team this year after shutting its No. 77 operation and selling its charter to JTG Daugherty for that team’s No. 37 car.
MORE: An inside look at how the Hawkeye Inspection process works
NASCAR will debut a new inspection system this season. It’s unofficial name is the Hawkeye System, but NASCAR plans on announcing a name for it at a later date. The system will allow NASCAR greater scrutinize the entire car and also streamline the process. Some Ford drivers are hoping the new system keeps the manufacturers close since Ford has the oldest body compared to Toyota and Chevrolet.
Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams will be restricted to no more than five people over the wall to service the vehicle on a pit stop, eliminating one position.
Should a team change an engine in its primary car during Daytona Speedweeks for something other than crash damage, the team will be forced to start at the rear of their qualifying race (if the change takes place before then), start at the rear for the Daytona 500 and start at the rear of the field for the next race the car is entered.
No longer will a driver have to sit in their car on pit road while serving a timed penalty during a practice session. Those penalties will be served in the garage.
The phrase “encumbered” is a thing of the past, but the penalty remains.
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