Could Double File Restarts be the first of many Changes??

               June 2009                                                               Dale Wilkerson

Sometimes change can be a good thing, and in the world of racing, fans were treated to one of the biggest changes, in the history of NASCAR, during the running of the Pocono 500.

The double file restart is a step in the right direction for NASCAR. This change was well received by the Sprint Cup Series at Pocono this week.

This new rule has fixed several problems with re-starts. In the past, if a driver was on the tail end of the lead lap, he was allowed to re-start in front of the race leader. Drivers would find themselves behind the leader, one lap down, when the leader would hit pit road. So the driver that was just a lap down is now just ahead of the former second place car, which is now the leader, which put the formally lapped car on the tail end of the lead lap. Confused yet? NASCAR fans have been torn up about this for years.

Now drivers on the tail end of the lead lap will be allowed to drive around and re-start in line, at the position they hold. Lap down cars will fall behind the final lead lap cars with drivers that have received penalties, perhaps for pitting to early, falling end at the rear.

The free pass for the first car one lap down is still in effect, and now this will be awarded inside the final ten laps as well.

This is a great change for NASCAR events and perhaps just the tip of the iceberg for even more changes this season.

After watching the Camping World Truck race from Texas, their pit rules can’t be changed soon enough. Drivers currently can only change tires or add gasoline during a stop, not both. Some drivers only took fuel during a green flag stop Friday night, while most drivers stopped twice, once for tires then a second time for gas.

The truck series currently looks a lot like the Cup Series during the first four races of the 1991 season. That year, cars were assigned an inspection sticker, red for cars that qualified in the odd spots and blue for the even spots, and cars could not pit at all under caution. Those first four races in 1991 where very odd, and dare I say… boring.

The truck races have been a bright spot for on track competition, but these pit rules, combined with long green flag runs, have hurt the racing. Rumors are floating that the pit rules will be changed when the double file re-start rule is applied to the truck series. Let’s hope that happens this week at the Michigan International Speedway.

Did you see the ARCA race from Pocono? Or did you catch a replay of Joey Logano’s celebration after he won the race? He threw the car into a spin, at the finish line, to perform a burnout. This has become the norm of late in racing, but not with your crew standing out on the racing surface.

Logano was dangerously close to hitting several of his crew members. They had crossed the wall separating pit road and the race track, to congratulate their young driver for his first win at Pocono. Logano missed these guys by just a foot or two. The directors of NASCAR, ARCA, IRL, and other racing organizations need to step in and put the foot down, on the celebrations, before someone is injured or worse. Burnouts should be left to drag racing, where the tires need the added heat for traction, and the burnouts are performed in a controlled manor.

One other change could be the location of the lights and the flagman for pit road. Jimmy Johnson was caught for pitting to soon Sunday. Johnson said he couldn’t see the lights or the flagman for pit road, so he thought he was clear to make his stop. I don’t doubt that he and other drivers have trouble seeing those lights and the pit road flagman, but how many times have we seen Johnson dive down pit road as a car is crashing, to get his pit work complete, while other drivers are still on track? That answer is many times and in a way it was nice to see Johnson get bitten for stopping after pit road was technically closed.

I agree that something should be changed to help drivers know more clearly if pit road is opened or closed. The flagman needs to be placed in a flag stand instead of at ground level, and/or the lights need to be elevated over pit road, instead of being placed on a very short pole that is placed way over to the left of all pit roads in NASCAR, except for some of the road courses where the lights will be found to the drivers right side..

It was odd to see drivers having trouble on pit road at Pocono. As wide as the pit road is at Pocono, drivers should have enough room to see other drivers and their pit stalls, but many had problems, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Yes, Another Missed Pit-stop happened for Dale Jr. this week. A few laps after that missed stop, Junior hooked the car of David Stremme sending him into the outside wall. The television announcers said Junior was frustrated and that was why he spun Stremme instead of giving him a little room. If Junior was frustrated, I wonder how Stremme felt after pounding that wall.

Wasn’t Junior just a little frustrated at Daytona as well when he hooked Brian Vickers on the backstretch causing ‘The Big One’ that took out several cars? Perhaps Rick Hendrick should send Junior to an anger management class.

And about anger management, did they destroy a perfectly good guitar at Nashville Saturday night? Kyle Busch may see a trophy abuse penalty over his rock star antics after winning the Nationwide race at Nashville last Saturday.

Busch had promised his crew that if he won at Nashville, he would take the trademark guitar trophy and smash it against the ground, then signing and giving pieces of the remains to his crew members.

I wonder what Busch would do to one of those Grandfather clocks at Martinsville Speedway? Only time will tell.