Choose rule

Drivers give mixed responses to choose rule at Michigan

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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.”

NASCAR to introduce choose rule starting at Michigan

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NASCAR announced Thursday it will implement the choose rule starting with this weekend’s races at Michigan International Speedway.

The Truck Series races Friday (6 p.m. ET on FS1) and the Cup Series holds a doubleheader, racing Saturday (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The choose rule allows drivers to pick which lane they restart when a race resumes from a caution, with drivers able to secure better track position or restart in the preferred lane. It will be used in all races except those held on road courses and superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega).

With the Xfinity Series competing at Road America this weekend and on the Daytona road course next weekend, the choose rule won’t be used by the series until its Aug. 22-23 races at Dover.

The rule made its NASCAR national series debut in the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway and was warmly received by drivers.

Drivers chose their lanes on the lap before the restart when they drove to the right or left of an orange cone symbol painted on the track just beyond the start-finish line.

“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, in a press release. “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.

“I think the choose rule’s been needed for a long time,” Chase Elliott said after winning the All-Star Race. “I think it should be that way every week. I don’t think there’s really a reason to not have it. There’s no reason to me why you shouldn’t have the choice or you should be automatically told where you’re going to line up when one lane has an obvious advantage, just based on where you come off pit road. Life ain’t fair I guess, but just makes way more sense to put it in our hands and it either works out for you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s your own fault and not luck of the draw and where you come off pit road.”

When asked about the choose rule Thursday, Joey Logano was enthusiastic.

“Finally,” Logano said. “I’ve been looking for this for years. I’ve brought it up in meetings for years and to see it kind of come into action at Bristol is something that I thought went really smooth. It was kind of exciting and interesting to see the decisions that drivers made and it was different every time. If you do that at Bristol, what’s it look like at Michigan?  … There’s a lot of questions that kind of come along with that on what it is and there might be some races where it looks identical to what it is right now where third is on the inside and fourth is on the outside. That can happen. .. It definitely adds another piece to the strategy and even more importantly it has everyone not doing the whole stopping at the end of pit road and letting a car go by because, for one, it’s not safe to stop at the end of pit road for anyone jumping over the wall and having cars swerve like that.

“But, two, that’s not racing. The goal should be in front of whatever car is in front of you, not let one go at the end of pit road so you can have the outside lane or the inside lane. That’s backwards. You don’t want to do that, so we can get past that. Every time we’d try to count cars like that someone would have a penalty anyway, so it never worked for me. You’d always let one go and then the car in front of you has an uncontrolled or a speeding penalty and you’re like,’ C’mon!’ So, it gets rid of all that. That’s nice.”

Choose Rule took ‘funny business’ out of All-Star Race restarts

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The first NASCAR All-Star Race held at Bristol Motor Speedway is in the books and so is the first major NASCAR event with the Choose Rule.

The Cup Series got its first taste of drivers being able to choose which lane they restarted during Wednesday night’s race at the half-mile track.

Drivers chose their lanes on the lap before the restart when they drove to the right or left of an orange cone symbol painted on the track just beyond the start-finish line.

After the experiment, drivers asked about the rule had positive reactions.

“I think the thing that it does is it just takes all the question out of where everybody is and who is where,” Kevin Harvick said. “When you get to that line everybody has already made their choice and there’s no funny business of people trying to start in a different lane or do something that they didn’t choose to do. I think that went really well and, for the most part, I don’t think there were any issues.”

The most enthusiastic support came from race winner Chase Elliott.

“I think the choose rule’s been needed for a long time,” he said. “I think it should be that way every week. I don’t think there’s really a reason to not have it. There’s no reason to me why you shouldn’t have the choice or you should be automatically told where you’re going to line up when one lane has an obvious advantage, just based on where you come off pit road. Life ain’t fair I guess, but just makes way more sense to put it in our hands and it either works out for you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s your own fault and not luck of the draw and where you come off pit road.”

Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, said his team had gone over a “statistical analysis” of the effectiveness of each lane beforehand. He said other than once, Elliott went “against the grain” when it came to lane choice.

“We certainly leave that up to him,” Gustafson said. “He knows what the car’s driving like and what the opportunities are. I don’t think it’s a just absolute monumental change to the sport, but … I’ve been in this situation a lot of times where it’s just really frustrating when you get taken out of an opportunity to race for a win because of a lane.

“There are some tracks, and (Bristol) is one of them, the lanes can get huge amounts of disparity and it kind of sucks when you’re second or third and you get stuck on the bottom and you end up seventh or eighth and you don’t get a chance to race for the win. I do think it gives an opportunity to make it a little bit more fair for the competitors, but I don’t think it’s going to be a monumental shift. It’s probably going to affect a row or two, which you saw tonight.”

After the end of the first stage, Harvick restarted first in the outside lane while Ryan Blaney restarted second on the inside. That was made possible by Elliott going from second to fourth to restart on the outside thanks to the choose rule.

After Stage 2, Blaney did not pit and assumed the lead. Brad Keselowski was first off pit road thanks to taking two tires and chose the outside lane behind Blaney instead of starting on the front row on the inside lane. Elliott was next to choose and selected the front row inside spot, restarting second.

Kyle Busch, who finished second, thought the experiment “worked well.”

“It was kind of interesting how it played out, how a few guys took to it,” Busch said. “Seemed like a lot of times guys were restarting kind of in their positions, maybe one off here or there, but not a whole lot different. There was a time where I think there was like four or five guys that chose the outside, one guy on the inside. I went ahead and took that inside spot. I think I netted out back even again.

“The inside here tonight, for whatever reason, even though the inside is the preferred groove once you get going, it’s such a detriment when you fire off. I don’t know why. It’s just weird. I thought it worked. … Maybe we’ll see it happen more.”

NASCAR will have choose rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Following support from drivers, NASCAR will allow competitors to choose which lane they want to restart in during the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The choose rule designates a spot on the track where a driver must select if they wish to restart on the inside lane or outside lane. The choose rule also will be in place for the NASCAR Open.

NASCAR also announced the format for the NASCAR Open and All-Star Race.

In the NASCAR Open, which is for drivers who have not qualified for the All-Star Race:

  • Stage 1 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

The winner of each stage advances to the All-Star Race. After the NASCAR Open, the Fan Vote winner will be announced. That will go to the driver not yet qualified for the All-Star Race after competing in the NASCAR Open.

In the All-Star Race, the format will be:

  • Stage 1 will be 55 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 3 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

Both green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage. There will be an unlimited number of attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green flag conditions.

NASCAR also stated that the car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give more exposure to the teams’ sponsors

The biggest change is the choose rule. At Bristol, the outside line is dominant on restarts. The leader chooses to restart on the outside line and the driver starting in the second row — in fourth place — often is second shortly after the restart because of the lane’s advantage. With the rule change, others would have the chance to start on the outside lane if they wanted.

“I see nothing bad that it can bring,” Joey Logano said of the chose rule concept in May. “It brings another strategy to the table, it’s definitely something to talk about. You don’t have luck becoming involved. …

“I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out.”

Said Austin Dillon: “As a sport we’re always changing. We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.”

Some drivers have called for this type of rule to prevent the brake checking that takes place at the exit of pit road so a driver can be in an even-number position in the running order and restart on the outside lane.

“It takes out pit crew’s fast stops,” Dillon said. “Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do.”

The All-Star Race was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway because of the COVID-19 pandemic and North Carolina restrictions on mass gatherings. Bristol will be allowed to have up to 30,000 fans.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.