NASCAR makes several rule changes for 2023 including no stage breaks at select tracks, banning Chastain move, my take

NASCAR announced Tuesday several updated changes. One was a controversial decision. The sanctioning body will enforce rules already written in the NASCAR Rule Book to officiate vehicles that employ a similar strategy to the one Ross Chastain used in his “Hail Melon” move at Martinsville Speedway by issuing a time penalty.

That rule states: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM. 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.”

I’m 50-50 on if I like this move being policed or not.

The fact that they do, now makes me feel bad for Denny Hamlin last year because if it’s a penalty now, why isn’t it one then? That move single handedly kept Hamlin out of the Championship 4.

However, I also don’t want to see that move done every week either, so cracking down on this also makes sense.

There’s a reason we’ve never seen this happen before and to why it looked as crazy as it did. It truly did look like a video game. Is that what we want NASCAR’s premiere series to truly look like?

Kyle Larson doesn’t think so calling it embarrassing last Fall. Joey Logano sided with Larson on this topic.

“We all did it as kids,” said Logano after the Martinsville maneuver. “We all did it in the video game. That’s how you made speed in the video game, that’s what you did (smiling).

“Something we all thought about at one point. At least I thought about it a lot, but never really had the need to do it. Also kind of thought of how many races I could have won here by doing that.

“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is now the box is open, right? Now every Xfinity race, every Truck race, every Cup race, no matter the track, this wall riding is going to be a play. That’s not good. That’s not good.

“I mean, it was awesome, it was cool. It happened for the first time. There’s no rule against it. There needs to be a rule against this one because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall coming to the checkered flag.

“I don’t know if it’s the safest thing for the driver or the fans when you have a car right up at the wall hauling the mail like that. What if that fence, gate, wasn’t closed all the way? What if it was bent and caught his car? That’s a big risk that Ross was willing to take. God bless him, that’s awesome.

“I don’t think we need to do that every week.”

His teammate Ryan Blaney noted that he saw the move and said why not do that every week?

“I just saw it and I guess I wish I should have done it.  I guess we’ll all start doing it now coming down to the end of the race,” he says.

That’s why this rule essentially went into place.

“That’s why I’m saying we probably need to do something about it, ” Logano said. “Like I said, the box is open now. It’s going to continue to happen until we do something about it.

“Yeah, I mean, Phoenix presents the opportunity for it, too. A little different entry point and all that. But, yeah, when you’re going for a championship, you’re probably going to do it.

“You’re leading going into the last corner, you’re going to put it in the wall? Geez. It’s cool, it happened once, we don’t need to make this a thing.

“We can’t make it a thing. I mean, hey, the first time it happens, that’s pretty awesome. I mean, if that don’t make SportsCenter’s top 10 plays, I don’t know what does. Race into a championship, that’s crazy.

“I haven’t really talked to Ross. I don’t know how he feels about it. You think about getting bounced off the wall like that, your head is bouncing around like crazy. You touch the fence, there’s no suspension between the car and the fence. You know what I mean? It’s really rough if you start riding the wall like that.

“Like I said, we need to do something about it. It was awesome. If we did it every week, it wouldn’t be very professional at all. But since this is the first time, hey, more power to him.”

Chastain said that it jar him around inside of the car too.

Logano also warns that it’s not just about the championship, you could literally do this move at any track.

“It can happen anywhere. We’ve seen it happen at Darlington. It has nothing to do with the composite body. The body actually looks pretty good on the thing after doing that. The car doesn’t look that bad (smiling).

“You never need it to run another lap once you commit to do that. You can do that with a steel body, too, because you’re never going to do it again so… Yeah, body had nothing to do with it.”

As far as what stance NASCAR can take to regulate this?

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – JULY 31: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, Chase Briscoe, driver of the #14 Ford, and Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 CRAFTSMAN Racing for a Miracle Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 31, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Removal Of Stage Cautions

Another change made was the removal of stage cautions at road courses. This comes following a review of Fan Council Data and industry discussions. Stage points will still be awarded at the stage-ending lap, but the green-checkered flag will not be displayed and there will not be a caution period to interrupt the action.

NASCAR started this format in 2017 as it rewards points for the top 10 finishers of the two stages. It’s done to make the drivers actually race from the onset of the green flag but also give fans a break to go to the bathroom or concession stand or if you’re at home, to walk away from the TV at the two stoppages.

However, most fans didn’t take to it like NASCAR thought they would. Many fans liked the idea of stages, but why not just continue on with the green flag action? Award points and if the flag was a green checkered like it was, doesn’t green mean, go?

Hence the change.

The thing is, it’s going to change the way these races are run now too.

It was becoming the norm for teams to elect to pit right before the stage would end to give up points for track position. They don’t have that luxury anymore.

I like that aspect as strategy is back in the hands of the teams again and these races won’t carry on forever. I hope this works out so that maybe they can do this for more tracks in 2024.

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 30: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Direct Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)


In other competition-related news, competition officials have revised the penalty structure for detached wheels, shifting away from the four-race crew chief suspension that had been in place since 2015.

The new procedure is as follows:

If the wheel comes off while a car is on pit road under the yellow flag, the driver will restart the race at the tail end of the field.

If the wheel comes off while a car is on pit road under green flag conditions, the driver must serve a pass-through penalty.

If the wheel comes off while beyond pit road, it will be a two-lap penalty for the team and a two-race suspension for two crew members.

I like this too because this penalty isn’t intentional anymore. I can see the old way being so by purposely not putting all 5 lugnuts on in order to gain speed on your pit stop. However, that was dangerous. With this new tire, there’s a single lug. You’re not purposely allowing the wheel to come off. It’s bad luck.

Last year, there were 14 penalties issued for wheels coming off a car during a race. Kaulig Racing was the only repeat offender as it showed teams adapted.

But I don’t like the old way with the penalty having a lasting impact well past that race. In fact, it was a full month basically. That’s too severe. This is a better way.

Wet Weather

Competition officials have also expanded the list of tracks where wet-weather equipment could be used in 2023, adding several tracks of 1 mile or less to the mix of road courses. Those events include races at: the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway for All-Star weekend, Phoenix Raceway, Richmond Raceway, The Milwaukee Mile and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

I like this way because it can speed up the process of getting back to racing. You still can’t race on an oval in a downpour, but if you get the track just to damp, you can resume quicker than having to get the track to bone dry. It also would open up strategy because you can time when you go back to slicks based on running on the wets.

Top 30 Rule Eliminated

Drivers in Cup will no longer need to be top-30 in points to be eligible for the playoffs with a victory. The top-20 standard for trucks and Xfinity drivers also has been eliminated. Drivers still must attempt every race (or receive a waiver to miss a race). NASCAR felt most drivers who compete weekly would meet those standards anyway and who doesn’t meet that standard would be close enough to warrant being in the playoffs.

I like this and I don’t. I thought the Top 30 rule was a nice underrated strategy play late in the season for those trying to get in. Now, that’s out the window as the only points we’re watching is in the top 16. This way kept a points aspect throughout the entire regular season because anyone can win Daytona and Talladega and now that strategy is back in play on road courses, it would have made things more interesting if someone outside the Top 30 going into the final month of the season had a win.

Restart Zones

  • Drivers will get to choose their lane for restarts at Daytona, Talladega, Atlanta and the Bristol dirt race. This makes the rule consistent with other races on ovals. NASCAR’s hesitance on the tracks where teammates often help each other in the aerodynamic draft was that this would just increase teammates working together. NASCAR will have to figure out how to make the choose area for the dirt track, since it can’t paint the surface (most likely will use chalk).

Dash 4 Cash

NASCAR officials on Tuesday released the 2023 schedule for the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program, bringing back the four tracks that formed last year’s mix.

Eligible Xfinity Series regulars who are the top finishers at those designated events will pocket cash bonuses. The March 25 race at Circuit of The Americas will determine the four eligible drivers with the first crack at the extra money.

The four events in the 2023 Dash 4 Cash initiative:

  • April 1: Richmond Raceway
  • April 15: Martinsville Speedway
  • April 22: Talladega Superspeedway
  • April 29: Dover Motor Speedway

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