NASCAR Cup Series
Rick Ware Racing Signs Riley Herbst for Daytona 500
Jan 31, 2023
NASCAR announced on Tuesday a number of rule changes ahead of the 2023 season, focusing primarily on stage breaks, loose wheels, rain tires and playoff eligibility across all three national touring series. The sanctioning body also addressed Ross Chastain’s bold last-lap ‘Hail Melon’ move at Martinsville Speedway used to make the Championship 4 in 2022.
Stage break cautions have been eliminated at all road course events in the NASCAR Cup Series starting in 2023. In an effort to reduce the time spent under cautions at lengthy tracks, stage points will still be awarded to drivers at predetermined laps. However, the field will not be slowed by the green-and-checkered flag indicating a stage break.
The decision was made based on a “review of Fan Council Data and industry discussions,” according to NASCAR. The Cup Series competes at road course events at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of the Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Road America, Sonoma Raceway, and Watkins Glen International.
Perhaps the most impactful competition change will see the loose wheel penalties altered ahead of the 2023 season across all three series. Previously, if a team lost a tire at any point in the event, NASCAR would suspend the crew chief, tire changer and jackman for four events.
Under the new rules, if a tire comes loose from a car on pit road, the driver will be forced to do a pass-through penalty under green flag conditions or fall to the tail of the end of the longest line if it occurs during a caution flag. If the tire is lost on the racetrack, the driver must serve a two-lap penalty on pit road. If this occurs, the infringing team will have two crew members suspended for two events.
Fans at NASCAR short tracks this season will have a better chance of watching racing in wet weather this year, as rain tires are making their way from the road courses to a number of other tracks on the schedule. Rain tires will now be available for teams to use under damp conditions at the following facilities across all three series - Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, Martinsville Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Phoenix Raceway.
The rules for playoff eligibility across all three series were also altered ahead of the 2023 racing season. NASCAR has removed the point threshold required for eligibility into the playoffs. Drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series will no longer have to be in the top 30 in driver points to be eligible for the playoffs, while NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers will no longer have to be in the top 20 to be eligible. Drivers will still be required to run the full season or have an approved waiver from NASCAR.
When Ross Chastain put his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet into fifth gear and drove as hard as possible into Turn 3 on the final lap of the October 2022 Playoff race at Martinsville, he shocked the competition, instantly made NASCAR highlight reels for years to come, and made many wonder if the same dramatic move could be pulled at other NASCAR tracks.
Following Tuesday’s announcement, the move made famous by Chastain will no longer be allowed under the new interpretation rules. Any driver attempting to alter the race in a similar fashion will be issued a time penalty.
NASCAR did not introduce any new rules to prevent this from happening in the future, instead they indicated they would enforce the existing rule 10.5.2.6.A which states: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM (NASCAR Event Management). Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”
-Story by: Jay W. Pennell