Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Calls NASCAR (Almost) Got Right

  1. Movin’ on up…

While NASCAR rolled out several rule changes prior to this season, one that went mostly unnoticed until last weekend at Charlotte was to add some adjustability to the start times of races with 24-hour notice to fans if there is impending weather. That came into play Sunday, when afternoon rain was in the forecast in Charlotte and NASCAR made the call Saturday morning to move the start time to just after 1:00 p.m. rather than the original time an hour later. It was tweaked again Sunday morning by a few minutes to the top of the one o’clock hour. The weather got dicey late in the day, and some fans got some rain on the way home, but all 500 miles of the event went off without a weather-related hitch.

A few fans were vocal about not knowing about the change, but in this day and age, where that information is available from any number of channels…that’s on them. Many vented on social media, the irony of which was that the change was broadcast all over those sites on Saturday. Hopefully fans are now aware that the time may be changed and will make sure to check for updates.

The one criticism here is not with the change itself. That was absolutely the right call. The issue is that the start times are so late to start with. There was no reason the race should not have been scheduled at 1 to start with. The fans paying for race tickets shouldn’t be forced to choose between the race and getting home at a decent hour for work the next day.

  1. Back it up, boys

On the same token, NASCAR did a solid job getting Saturday’s XFINITY Series race in on the scheduled day. While in that case, it’s unfortunate that it ended so much later than expected, there wasn’t much of a window in the expected forecast for several days.

In general, for Saturday races, postponing until Sunday morning is probably the option I’d choose whenever it’s practical over keeping fans waiting for hours, but with the Cup race already moved back and the forecast no sure thing Sunday, that wasn’t a great choice either. Could they have run the race on a timer Sunday?  If there was no other option, sure, but this was a playoff race and an  elimination event to boot, so NASCAR made the right call on this one, too.  Waiting out weather on Sundays isn’t generally a great idea; Saturdays play out a bit differently.

  1. Hey, you with the tape!

It was such a minor thing, securing some tape on the damaged No. 83 of driver Brett Moffitt, but it proved costly to the BK Racing team as there were too many crewmen over the wall on pit road, and the consequence was that the team was sent to the garage.

The rules, as written, were enforced correctly. That’s something fans have asked for (see the outrage over Jimmie Johnson’s loose lugnuts, below), and NASCAR delivered.

If you’re mad about the lugnut non-call, then you don’t get to be mad about this one, too. Yes, it was a small team who already had issues, and sure, it was only a piece of tape. But judging by the incident with Johnson’s nuts, had it been a playoff team, or whichever team is the punching bag du Jour, fans would not have been happy with a non-call.

  1. But hey, you nailed the one…

One out of…how many? Okay, so that’s not exactly a great track record, but now that the 2017 NASCAR playoffs are underway, it’s pretty clear that awarding the playoff points that teams could earn by winning a stage or a race all season were a good move.

I’m still no fan of any kind of playoff system in racing, but this addition stacks the deck in favor of a team who puts together a stellar season, all but guaranteeing that team, in this year’s case the No. 78 of Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex, Jr., inclusion in the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

There’s still no guarantee that Truex will win the title, but it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it more than any other driver in 2017. Fans wanted the regular season to count more, and this does give the best driver all year a boost in the title quest.

It doesn’t make up for the one-race title format, because that’s a terrible way to determine a season championship. But at least this year, it gives the driver who deserves the title in the first place the best chance to get it without ditching the playoff format altogether.  Since NASCAR won’t make that move, they gave fans the next best option.

  1. But maybe tell us about it next time, OK?

Here’s the deal with the aforementioned Jimmie Johnson and his “nut” problem: if NASCAR has been consistently inconsistent on this as they have later admitted, then it’s kind of hard to say they should have penalized Johnson for something they’ve been letting slide for a couple of years. You can’t let everyone do something until someone notices and then say, “sorry, Jimmie, but fans saw this on TV, so you’re going to be the example even though a bunch of other guys have done the same thing recently.” If, indeed, teams have been getting away with the same thing all along, it’s hard to say the call was wrong now.

The mistake here was not telling teams outright that tightening a couple of lugnuts outside the box is okay if the stop was otherwise completed in the confines. At the end of a race, a couple of loose nuts can cost a team its crew chief, so calling the driver back to fix it is necessary, and it is in itself a penalty; NASCAR was correct in that assessment.

But while I can see that by not making the situation an official rule and telling teams that it’s a-ok, the practice isn’t being encouraged, hey, it’s out there now. If it’s been enforced this way for months now, it needs to be made official, and then there will be no question of when it’s allowed and when it’s not. The call was wrong according to the rule book but also the one NASCAR has been making all along, which suddenly makes calling it different also wrong.

In this case, a rulebook change is in order so that the situation is transparent.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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Since this a-hole format has been introduced plenty of excelling season long drivers have been robbed on purpose at the final bs at Homestead. CHASE playoffs, stage, rounds or whatever too. So I have zero sympathy if old Nasty Marty gets the “Carl” treatment so Jimmie can motor on by with 10 laps to go and have the lemmings think he was “the man” for 36 races. And is one of the greats with 8. Oh that was painful to type, such bullshit. He wasn’t…but BRIAN FRANCE won’t tell the masses that tidbit.

What would bring this whole farce full circle if the Loony Tune Matty Kenseth got the HOMESTEAD CUP. I would luv it!!!!!! It would make my day. His season sucks and he winds up the Musical Chairs winner, as he was the impetus (not blaming him) for this insanity LOL of THE CHASE, THE PLAYOFFS…whatever the DE JOUR term is this year.


Yeah, speaking of Kenseth, he is the only champion left and he will soon drive into the sunset. All the rest are just “asterisk winners” or as KB reader labeled it the “Homestead Cup” winner. It’s just embarrassing. It’s very possible for example that #24 reaches Homestead without a winning a race. At Homestead #24 finishes P2, and #78 finishes P3, behind Homestead winner let’s say #22. How in the world could #24 look #78 in the eye and call himself “The champion. ” What a bunch of BS. (and I have nothing against Chase Elliott, actually I like the kid and was a big fan of his father Bill.)

Bill B

My biggest wish is that a driver (any driver) without a win can get the championship just to make Brian look foolish. I’ve been hoping for that since 2004.

I have also noticed since the 2011 Homestead race when Edwards and Stewart were battling it out, that that race is a total farce. All the other drivers literally get out of the way for the championship hopefuls, which makes it much less likely that the champion doesn’t win that race.


Or the other way and have all four be in the same wreck at say lap 150 and literally not be able to continue and they all finish 33,34, 35, 36 only based off the last lap 149 running order. or have the top three guys, 18, 42, 78 have this issue and the fourth car (say anyone of the other 9 drivers in current top 12) finish 15th and this be where that team was essentially running most of the race, and be crowned champ. This would really drive home how stupid Brain farts championship system really is.

I do not mind the 10 race system as it is long enough but the one race champ is an idiotic way to crown. The current system would work wonders and be a fairly good way of doing the championship if NASCAR would go back to a full ten race playoff. or even do a hybrid of the two systems and say have a 12 team field with the eliminations after race 29 and 32, then have a six driver 4 race chase for the championship. Takes some of the luck out of it and the teams have to run well in 4 distinct races and beat the other 3 teams consistently.

Bill B

Actually, your scenario of them all wrecking would be even more hilarious and make NASCAR look like more of a joke to fans of other sports than it already does.

As for the 10 race system, I can’t buy into it as the best way to crown a champion. Yes 10 is better than 1 but 36 is the best. I could envision flipping a coin 10 times and it coming up heads every time but not 36 times. Regardless, the more races in the “pool” the higher the chance of factoring luck out of the equation and the more legitimate the results.


A scenario I suggested years ago was a wreck after about five laps and the chosen four finish 37, 38, 39, and 40 and the TV telecast spends the next 380 miles showing the new “champion” getting his trophy while Brian’s event is going on. Finally, one of the chosen four MIGHT NOT win the event. I’d bet Brian lets them get their backup cars out…because he can.


Agree with the 83 penalty as that is in the rule book and needs to be enforced appropriately.
Issue I have is with NASCAR letting the lugnut thing go basically all year and why has no one noticed it until the 48 did it?, but aside from that ALL pit oriented work should be done in the pit box completely. If NASCAR is concerned about safety and a level playing field there will be a circumstance where this happens again and an incoming car will have issues getting into the pit box, pit crews will already be moving to service the car and such and they will hit each other.
Easy rule: any and all pit related tasks must be done while fully in the teams pit box. End of story. Lugnuts safety issue, having a car being “serviced” but not in their pit box, SAFETY issue for two teams and a potential results change due to pit road impairment.

John Matthew

Johnson & his team broke a rule and should have been whacked like anyone else. Who’s NASCAR afraid of anyway? Johnson? Knaus? Hendrick? It must be someone, that or they want their golden boy to win again. Fair is fair; this incident with a no-penalty call wasn’t.


Amy, you nailed it on the start time change, which does little to solve the original issue of the races starting too late. Frankly I don’t think one hour is aggressive enough. In some cases, a 2 or 3 hour bump is more justified. Wouldn’t far fewer people be inconvenienced by that than the alternative of the race running into the wee hours or worse, being postponed until the next day?
NASCAR caught a break this year when weather didn’t impact any of the races with the 3:20-3:25 start times. They caught a huge break Sunday as there were several tornadoes an hour to the west of the track just as the race was ending.

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