NASCAR issued a change to its rulebook Wednesday no longer requiring Cup Series teams to start races on the same set of tires they qualified on. The change will begin with the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Previously, teams had to start races from the rear of the field if they did not start on their qualifying tires.
“This helps us ensure a level playing field, and will end speculation that teams miss qualifying purposely to start the race with a tire advantage,” Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said in a statement provided to NBC Sports.
The most recent example of a car starting from the rear for changing tires was Kyle Larson last weekend at Kansas Speedway.
Larson spun in qualifying and flat-spotted his tires, requiring him to start last. Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet finised fifth in the first stage.
In the Feb. 25 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. started 35th on new tires after failing prequalifying inspection. He was fifth at the end of Stage 1.
“That’s a really good penalty when you come to a place like this, huh?” Larson’s spotter observed during the first stage on an abrasive track known for heavy tire wear.
NASCAR also changed the number of tires that are supplied to teams in a race weekend. Beginning with the Coke 600, teams will have four sets of tires for practice and qualifying, except for superspeedway races, where they will have three sets.
For truncated race weekends, teams will be able to carry over their qualifying set to the race. If they do not make laps on their qualifying tires, they must carry over a scuffed set from practice.
In another rules bulletin Wednesday, NASCAR also mandated that teams may only use traditional battery-powered equipment to repair a vehicle on the service side of the pit wall. Traditional battery-powered equipment includes (but is not limited to) reciprocating saws, rivet guns, screw guns, and drills. Any other equipment may be used only at the discretion of a series’ managing director.