If you’ve watched NASCAR in recent years, you’re probably no stranger to the series’s weird rules and complex procedures that seem to accumulate year by year. Now, starting at this weekend’s doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR has implemented a whole new policy: the choose cone rule.
Those of you who regularly attend your local dirt and short track events, you already know what I’m talking about. A safety cone is often brought out on restarts at these smaller events, but NASCAR is only just now permanently putting it into play.
Very simply, the cone—or, in NASCAR’s case, a bright V shape painted on track—gives drivers an opportunity to choose which lane they want to start in during restarts. At pretty much all tracks, there are at least two lanes: top and bottom. And at pretty much all tracks, one of those lanes is preferable to the other.
In the past, drivers didn’t really get a say in where they restarted; it a double-file restart based on their position on track. The leading driver generally got to choose his or her preferred lane, leaving the second-place driver to take the other. The rest of the cars would then line up behind them in order.
With the choose rule, though, drivers get to pick any lane. At today’s Cup race, you’re likely going to see most of the drivers at the front of the pack choose the preferred lane since that’s where the grip is. Drivers who would normally be restarting farther back will be more likely to choose the opposite lane in the hopes that it will give them a little extra boost in position or that they’ll be able to adopt an alternate strategy.
The choose rule was used once this season during the All-Star race at Bristol Motor Speedway as something of a trial run. Most drivers have been pushing for a choose rule for years are understandably stoked that it’ll be a regular feature.
“It definitely adds another piece to the strategy,” Joey Logano told NASCAR on NBC. “And even more importantly, it has everyone not doing the whole stopping at the end of pit road and letting a car go by because, for one, it’s not safe to stop at the end of pit road for anyone jumping over the wall and having cars swerve like that.
“That’s not racing. The goal should be in front of whatever car is in front of you, not let one go at the end of pit road so you can have the outside lane or the inside lane.”
Of all NASCAR’s recent attempts to make the racing more exciting (some of you may call them “gimmicks”), the choose rule is one that actually makes sense and has a history in stock car racing. Stages, playoffs—I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. But the choose rule? It was awesome at Bristol, and it's going to make the racing a hell of a lot more naturally exciting.
The choose rule will be used at all of the remaining 2020 races with the exception of road courses and superspeedways.