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NASCAR okays double-file restarts, which should be a big boost to Sunday's Pocono 500

Restarts are frequently the most exciting part of the afternoon. Now the leaders will be paired side-by-side, without lapped cars to intervene (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Double-file restarts?
   For Sunday's Pocono 500 NASCAR will use the double-file start – the same procedure used at the start of every race – to give the race leaders the advantage of not having to race against cars already a lap or more down.
   That means the top two drivers at any point in the race will be restarting side-by-side.
   The leader will have the option of the inside or outside line (sometimes the inside line is preferred). But the rest of the field will not have any such option. So the third-place driver will line up on the inside lane for the start.
   NASCAR also made the controversial decision to let all those drivers nearly a lap down, and just ahead of the leader at the yellow, move all the way around the track and close up to the rear of the lead pack. That effective gives those drivers nearly a full lap of track position for free. However for the leaders, the edge in having clean air at the head of the pack will likely outweigh – usually – any disadvantage in giving rivals that much 'free' track position.
   There is one potential complication, however, which NASCAR's announcement late Thursday didn't directly address – when the nearly-lapped drivers will be allowed to pit, presuming the entire pack is ready to pit en masse.
   It has been suggested that it would only fair for NASCAR to preclude the nearly-lapped cars from pitting with the lead lap cars (under the yellow)….because otherwise there is the potential that this new rule would allow a nearly-lapped car to actually take the lead during those yellow flag stops.
   And there are likely a few other tweaks that may need to be addressed.
   But NASCAR's Brian France – whose family-owned sport has taken a number of hard PR image hits in the past few weeks, with the Jeremy Mayfield controversy, the Charlotte rain 600, and the Carl Long heavy-handed penalties – was quick to trumpet the new rule:
   "We've heard the fans loud and clear: 'double-file restarts, shootout style, are coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. This addition to the race format is good for competition and good for the fans."
   Tony Stewart, the new tour points leader, applauded the move and its logic: "The good thing is when they drop the green, you're going to be racing with the guys you're racing for position, instead of trying to clear lapped cars.
    "Since NASCAR has adapted the 'free pass' (Lucky Dog rule), that now justifies being able to put those lapped cars to the back and let them race with each other, and let the guys who are racing on the lead lap do the same.
   "I'm behind NASCAR 100 percent on this."
   NASCAR's long-standing restart rule has had all the lead-lap cars in the outside lane single-file, with all the lap-down cars on the inside lane single-file. That, traditionally, has allowed a lapped car the ability to race with the leader to get back on the lead lap.
   However since the Lucky Dog rule was added – as a major safety issue, which drivers had long pushed for – in 2003, the traditional two-lane   rules have been obsolete.
   In another twist, NASCAR is extending the Lucky Dog 'free pass' rule through the entire race. Until now, it had not been in effect the last 10 laps.
   One part of the NASCAR announcement remains to be clarified: "Lapped cars choosing to remain on the track will be 'waved around' the caution car and will restart the race in respective track position, thus picking up a lap to the leader, provided the leader also pits. This will also remove lapped cars from behind the pace car, allowing the leaders to take the green without interference."
   It is not precisely clear just what this means or how it might be used in practice.


NASCAR has made the first

NASCAR has made the first good decision it has made in many years. It should especially help Pocono, the kind of track that should be producing a lot more passing than it has seen the last ten or more years. With the sheer width of the frontstretch the leaders hopefully will fight five abreast.

NASCAR makes a good decision

NASCAR makes a good decision (golf clap). Now, fix the Carl Long decision and you will actually give the appearance of exercising some common sense.

Mike, I thought that they were not going to let the cars pit who were getting their lap back under caution? While I don't care if they do get to pit, they should have to wait an extra lap to do so. I think once the leaders are allowed to pit and once the pace car clears pit road at that same instance, those cars on the tail end of the lead lap can then go past the pace car. I would let them be on their own at that point. They can either pit and risk going a lap down again under caution (if they take too long with their pit stop), or stay out for either another lap and then pit, or they will not get to pit if the race is ready to go green again. At every track except Bristol and Martinsville, these cars should have time for at least a 2-tire stop once they get around the pace car.

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