As part of NASCAR's new rules outlawing racing back to the yellow flag, it was also announced that the leading lapped car would get a lap back during each caution period.

Under the new rules, the first car not on the lead lap would automatically regain a lap, regardless of where that car was in relation to the leader. Previously, the leader of the race would sometimes slow to allow one or two cars back on the lead lap, with 'racing' permitted right back to the flagstand. It was also confirmed that the car in question could be more than one lap down but, whatever the case would not be able to improve its position, as it would still have to pit with the lapped cars before being moved to the end of the lead-lap cars ahead of the green flag.

However, although almost all teams and drivers admitted that they could expect to benefit from the revised ruling at some point, their reaction to the change was not unanimous.

"I think it's a good rule," team owner Joe Gibbs admitted, "I think NASCAR did the right thing at the right time. I'm glad they didn't wait. It would have been easy to wait until the end of the year.

"Will we have a few problems with ironing this out? Yeah, we probably will. But I think it's something we'll work our way through. We're always for safety with the drivers. I think this is a safety issue. We're starting to have a lot of problems with somebody letting a guy back one week and then he's upset the next week because he didn't get a lap back. There's a lot of that going on. Plus, you've got guys speeding up and guys slowing down. That's a recipe for disaster. I think it was the best thing to do.

"I'm not a technical guy or a crew chief, but I don't think that affected our thought process or anything. But I will say this - when you're thinking about the first car a lap down, it does change your philosophy in the race, because you're racing your guts out to try and stay as the first car down. And
everybody is trying to figure out, including the spotters, who that is. I think it really did change strategy for everybody."

Dover race winner Ryan Newman was, ironically, one of the most outspoken when the announcement was made at the start of the race weekend, but benefited from the rule when he was allowed to regain the lead lap after an early cut tyre forced him to lost ground on the frontrunners.

"I still believe what I said," he insisted, "I guess the reward part of it, from my perspective, is still opinionated. It always will be opinionated if the rule stands the way it is. If there's 42 cars on the lead lap and one car's way off pace and he gets his lap back, then he got a free lap for basically nothing - he didn't come close to earning his lap. In our situation, we were working our way forward and finally were the first car that was one lap down. You could call it 'earning' your lap back."

Second-placed Jeremy Mayfield was in favour of the rule, despite having been deprived of victory by the recovering Newman.

"Unfortunately, it turned out that the guy won the race on the first day that we did it - I'm sure NASCAR has their hands full with that," he smiled wryly, "Overall, I thought it was a good thing. As they said yesterday in the meeting, there might be some adjusting going on. It just so happens that the #12 car was part of that deal, and he was still a good enough car to win the race.

"I don't think that that's what won the race for him. He would have made his lap up anyway, probably. It's just part of it. It just so happens that the first time we've ever done it, the guy won the race. NASCAR will take care of that. But my thoughts on it are that it's a good thing - it's still the safest way to go. I think NASCAR had a good judgment on that."

Dale Earnhardt Jr's crew chief, Tony Eury Sr, was not so impressed, however, calling the change a 'stupid rule'.

"If a man is not capable of getting his lap back, he doesn't need his lap back," he said, "These leaders run the race hard all day to lap people and get them a lap down and NASCAR gives it back to them. So, it's a stupid rule and it's going to be stupid as long as they use it."

 

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