NASCAR revealed some rule changes Wednesday and the one that got the most attention was the new policy that limits what teams can do to repair their vehicles during a race.
Here is an explanation of the rule and answers to some questions about the policy.
Here is the new rule:
— Damaged vehicles that go to the garage will not be permitted to return to the race.
— Damaged vehicles that can be repaired on pit road will have a five-minute cumulative time limit (yellow line to yellow line).
Pit road repairs:
— Body repairs are limited to the removal or reattachment of original body parts with fasteners and tape.
— Rods/supports may be used to reinforce original panels
— New or previously unused body panels are prohibited
— Series directors will provide teams an advance list of items that are required for competition (e.g. rear bumper cover, tail extension, etc.)
— 15-second time penalty for speeding on pit road or missing the commitment line
— Mechanical failures can be rectified so long as they are not a result of an accident.
Q: OK, why is NASCAR doing this?
A: NASCAR stated that this is something it has looked at before. NASCAR noted circumstances where damaged cars returned to the track and got in the way of the leaders, or lost body parts and created a caution, or had an oil leak that caused a lengthy caution.
Q: So any car that goes back to the garage is done now?
A: Not exactly. Follow me. If a car is damaged in an accident and goes to the garage (either on its own or towed) it is done for the rest of the race. Simple as that. There are exceptions. NASCAR stated that if a team goes to the garage to replace a transmission or electrical issue — not the result of a crash — the team can make those repairs and return to the race.
Q: Fine, what is this five-minute rule about repairs on pit road?
A: NASCAR is limiting the amount of time a team can spend on repairs on pit road to five minutes. The clock begins once the car crosses the yellow line at the start of pit road. The timing ends when the car crosses the yellow line at the end of pit road.
Q: Why is there a time limit?
A: NASCAR is limiting repairs to prevent an escalation of time spent on pit road by teams, along with an escalation of people and equipment in the pit area.
Q: What if a team speeds on pit road to return to the track before the five-minute clock expires?
A: They will be assessed a 15-second penalty. A team also can receive a 15-second penalty if it does not cross the commitment line to enter pit road to fix crash damage. Once a vehicle reaches the minimum speed on the track, the clock is cleared. However, if the vehicle must return to pit road for more repairs before reaching minimum speed, the time for the stops is cumulative.
Q: Five minutes to fix a car, no problem. A team will just send over 12 or more crew members instead of the allowed six to work on the car.
A: Do so and you’re done. Any team that exceeds the rule on crew members over the wall to repair a car damaged by an accident will be out the rest of the race. Understand, that if a team has too many crew members over the wall during a regular pit stop (not related to a crash repair scenario), then the penalty of a pass-through under green or restarting at the tail end of the field under yellow remains.
Q: OK, so a team has to be careful about how many people are over the wall to fix the car, but they still can fix anything right?
A: No. Teams can’t replace body panels. Body repairs are limited to removing or reattaching original body parts with fasteners and tape. Teams also can use rods and supports to reinforce original panels. New or previously used body panels are prohibited to be used.
Q: What about repairing the nose of the car?
A: NASCAR states that teams can put wire and mesh over the nose to protect the radiator if there is a large hole but noses cannot be replaced.
Q: What if the rear bumper cover comes off, then what? Can you repair that on pit road?
A: NASCAR notes that if the car is damaged and doesn’t have a quarter panel to attach a rear bumper cover to, then the car is done for the race. Teams can straighten parts and pieces to put them back in their original position. NASCAR notes that no major repairs are allowed on pit road.