11 February 2010
NASCAR modifying green-white-chequer rules
New rules to come into force for Thursday's Gatorade Duels to ensure races end under a green flag?
In an attempt to increase the likelihood that races will end under a green flag, NASCAR is expected to announce a modification of its rules for green-white-chequered-flag restarts in all three of its national touring series.
The new format, which stipulates that drivers must run at least one green-flag lap during a green-white-chequered finish, likely will go into effect for Thursday's Gatorade Duels, the 150-mile qualifying races that determine the starting order and fill out the field for the Daytona 500.
Though NASCAR had made no official announcement as of the end of Sprint Cup practice Wednesday, the sentiment in the garage was that the change would be instituted immediately. A source close to the situation told Sporting News the sanctioning body was 'definitely moving in that direction'.
The new rules should be in effect for Friday's NextEra Energy Resources 250 Camping World Truck Series race, Saturday's Drive4COPD Nationwide Series race and Sunday's Daytona 500, the season-opening points event in the Cup Series.
NASCAR discussed the issue in safety meetings with the three series Wednesday morning, and Daytona 500 pole winner Mark Martin, for one, thinks the change is coming. Martin is one driver, however, who has misgivings.
“At this level, I feel that we have to try to hold on to some sort of integrity,” Martin said Wednesday before Cup practice. “And for me, it gets a little bit like a circus. But I see what you're saying - I expect this is coming.”
Ryan Newman wasn't sure what form the new rule would take, but he applauded NASCAR's responsiveness to its fan base.
“I think every time we can end a race at the chequered flag at speed, then it's great for the fans,” Newman said. “That is ultimately what it's all about.”
In the past, NASCAR has employed a green-white-chequered finish in situations where the final two-lap run either would start in overtime or would take the race beyond its scheduled distance. Previously, NASCAR allowed one attempt at a green-white-chequer, and if the sanctioning body called a caution at any point during the final two laps, the field was frozen as it ran with the leading car declared the race winner.
That situation came into play in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, which went to caution during the first lap of a green-white-chequered finish after contact from Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet turned Greg Biffle's Ford in Turn 3 and triggered a multicar pileup. Kevin Harvick, the race leader, won the Shootout under caution for the second straight year.
In the new format, the race leader must take the white flag and begin the final lap under green before the race can conclude.
There are potential complications. Crew chiefs must take into account the possibility of additional overtime laps when calculating fuel mileage. More restarts also increase the likelihood of additional wreckage on the racetrack.
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News
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