In The Tracks...
NASCAR Update:
Double File Restart Report Card
July 22, 2009

After 6 races of double file restarts it seems to be working to provide some close finishes, but that is due to late race cautions, which seem to be happening to benefit the situation. During the middle of the race, there seems to be no real advantage as the field still sorts itself out and spreads out a bit following the cautions.

Teams still be trying things with the "wave around" rule and gambling to get an advantage from this rule. NASCAR did cover themselves by not allowing the wave around cars to pit without taking the green flag first. At most tracks, the wave around cars that stop under green after the caution will get relapped and lose the advantage the wave around gets them. The idea is that they would then need a quick caution, however, with the slower lapped cars not mixed with the faster lead lap cars anymore, the caustions breeding cautions concept might not be as true during the middle of the race as it has been in the past.

We did have a wreck on the restart at Loudon, but only the one time and from time to time we had that before so it is tougher now as if it does happen it probably will take out more lead lap cars as if they wreck they take each other out on the restarts as they are all together now. The time that cautions could still breed cautions would be at the end of the races when it's no longer a good idea to give much ground as the drivers have very little time left to get it back before the end of the race. So, the drivers go into a take and take situation instead of a give and take situation they might employ earlier in the race.

A definite good point for the double file restarts seems to be on the road courses. We saw at Infineon that the restarts were pretty orderly and that was because the field was already bunched up together and being side by side already there was no opportunity for drivers to dive into the first turns on the restarts trying to out break the cars ahead of them which can cause wrecks on the restarts. We'll have to wait until we get to Watkins Glen in August to see if this holds true there with the first turn being the 90 degree right hand turn, which has been a tough turn in the past on restarts.

Another thing to watch for are the short tracks. Bristol and Martinsville should be another test we haven't yet experienced. I already touched on the Loudon accident and that is the shortest track we've seen the double file restarts in action to this point. Bristol should be a good test for the double file restarts, but even there they now have progressive banking to help the cars in the outside lane. Martinsville is during the Chase for the Championship and there will be an even bigger test for short track double file restarts with such a flat track.

Overall, the double file restarts have been good to increase strategy and such for the late race restarts, but, without getting too political in a racing commentary, the double file restarts are just another way of bringing the teams not as good as the leader up in a better position to challenge the leader. With our current economic conditions, everybody is looking for help from the government to bail them out of their financial troubles. NASCAR is in the position of the government to bail out the teams that need help keeping up with the top teams. The first thing NASCAR did was introduce the Chase for the Championship. This at least had a good reason as ticket sales to the final couple races were hurting with one or two teams pulling away and battling for the championship or having the championship decided before the season ended would create a lack of excitement for the fans, who would rather watch football than the races on Sundays.

Now, they've introduced the double file restarts to add competition on the late race restarts to add some drama to the end of the races. At Chicagoland it was a great example of this as Mark Martin had them totally covered and was headed to a sure victory, but a few late race cautions gave Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne a chance to take the win away from Martin in the closing laps. Martin did prevail and go to victory lane still, but there was some drama to the finish to make it not so much of a runaway victory for Martin.

Sure drama is good to keep the fans interested and it may help the competition level for the finishes, but it would be better if we promoted the teams to figure out what Martin and his team did and try to catch him rather than penalize Martin by bringing Martin back to the pack.

In The Tracks...

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