By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
JOLIET, Ill.--NASCAR announced a significant change to its rules for restarts at the drivers' meeting before Sunday's GEICO 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway--a change that will no longer require he lead driver to arrive first at the start/finish line.
Here's how it works:
The lead driver, who controls the restart, must put power down in a restart zone defined by red lines on speedway walls. The length of the restart zone is pit road speed times two. In other words, if pit road speed is 45 mph, the length of the restart zone is 90 feet.
Once the lead car has restarted within the zone, the flagman will display the green flag, and racing resumes. Cars must stay in their respective lanes until they reach the start/finish line, but the second-place car is now allowed to arrive first.
In the regular-season finale Sept. 6 at Richmond, Carl Edwards was first to the stripe on the final restart by nearly a full car length over race leader Paul Menard, who had spun his tires. NASCAR opted not to penalize Edwards with a drive-through, recognizing that Menard had issues on older tires.
It was a judgment call nevertheless, and NASCAR president Mike Helton said on a pre-race interview on ESPN that the sanctioning body made the change "to narrow up the subjectivity that NASCAR might or should be able have to make a call."
"The difference now is," Helton said, "we've taken away some of the subjectivity where we've had to make a call on whether or not that second-place car legitimately or should be able (to beat the first-place car to the line)--(as) in the case of the 99 car (Edwards) last weekend, where our interpretation of what happened on the restart led us not to react to the 99 car."
HENDRICK LAUDS FRANCE'S DECISIVE ACTION
Naturally, team owner Rick Hendrick had reason to rejoice when Jeff Gordon was added to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Friday.
But Hendrick was particularly impressed with the way NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France handled the decision, which amounted to an executive order.
"I think NASCAR... I think Brian France did a great job," Hendrick said Sunday at Chicagoland after the drivers' meeting for the GEICO 400. "He stepped up, and he said, 'I made the decision, and this it's the way it's going to be.'
"It sounded like Bill (France Jr.)--'I'm going to make sure this doesn't happened, and this is the way we're going to race from here on.' I applaud NASCAR for what they've done. I think everybody in the garage... if we could go back and run Richmond over, it would be a lot different."
France included Gordon in the Chase based on evidence that other teams had colluded to change the finishing order in a way that elevated Joey Logano into the top 10 and knocked Gordon out of the 10-race playoff.
In the interest of fairness, and based on the totality of the circumstances, France added Gordon as a 13th driver on Friday.