Only a few days after it was announced, NASCAR implemented its new choose rule on restarts for the first time in a Cup Series points race.
The occasion came Saturday at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, a far cry from its original use in the July 15 All-Star race at the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway.
On the lap before a restart, drivers could drive to the left or right of an orange cone symbol on the track located a short distance beyond the start-finish line. A driver in fifth place could go to the left and restart second in the inside row, giving him better track position in the non-preferred lane, which Bubba Wallace did late in the race before he finished ninth.
Among the top-three finishers in the race – Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. – the race winner voiced the most excitement about the choose rule ahead of Sunday’s Michigan race (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
“The best thing about it is they had a race with it (Friday) with the Truck Series, made a lot of adjustments or a few adjustments this morning to the process, and I thought it went well today,” said Harvick, referring to NASCAR’s decision to move the symbol from 100 feet to 200 feet from the finish line. “I think it definitely gave some guys a chance that were kind of buried eighth or ninth, and I think (Chase Elliott) was one of those and wound up racing for the win.”
Elliott restarted second with 18 laps to go in the scheduled distance after he was fifth before the choose rule. He was able to lead nine laps before a caution.
“Definitely a lot to think about right there and definitely some processes that you have to go through, but you can take a chance and gain some track position,” Harvick said. “So I thought it went well and did exactly what everybody thought it would do.”
Keselowski said he was “agnostic” about the choose rule. He went from third to second for the final restart, bypassing Elliott, who finished seventh.
“There were parts I liked and there were parts I didn’t like,” Keselowski said. “I thought at the front, it seemed to be a little fun, something kind of different. It’s one of those things where I think it’s just ‑‑ when you eat chocolate you want vanilla sometimes; it felt different and different was kind of fun. There was other parts where I was kind of a little questioning about it. Overall I’m kind of neutral on it.”
Keselowski called the rule a “different dynamic” that “opens up some different opportunities.”
“We’re all kind of learning together how that plays out,” Keselowski continued. “This was a first time on a bigger track or a 550 (horsepower) rules package track that we’ve seen this, and so it definitely changed a little bit of the race. I’m not confident to say whether it was better or worse, just felt a little bit different to me. Which it should feel different; that’s kind of the point. If it wasn’t a little different, then why would we do it?
“I thought there were times when it was interesting, there were times where I was kind of like, hmm, I don’t know.”
Truex simply called the result of the choose rule “ok.”
“I don’t know that it changed the race a whole lot, but it was interesting for sure,” Truex said. “We’ll see how it plays out ‑‑ we seen a lot of guys pick the outside, but a few guys were able to get the lead from the bottom, as well. Pretty interesting how it worked out, and definitely learned some stuff for tomorrow.”
Ryan Blaney, who finished fourth, wishes he could have kept third place before the final restart.
“Because I would have chose the bottom and had a little better shot,” Blaney said. “I am proud of the effort. (Harvick) was really fast. We need to work on our stuff a little and I think we can compete a little better tomorrow.”