The double-file restart has been commonplace in NASCAR since the mid-2000s as a way of bunching up the leaders even tighter for more exciting restarts, especially as the checkered flag draws closer.
But in recent years, fans are increasingly upset with the number of overtime finishes and two-lap shootouts that stem from cautions that can usually be traced back to the restart. And with the implementation of the choose cone, restarts have gotten all the more chaotic.
Is it time to get rid of it? There are arguments for both sides.
People who believe NASCAR shouldn’t get rid of double-file restarts believe it creates more exciting finishes. It allows somebody to line up next to the leader and outduel them into turn 1 and steal the win. The leaders could tangle and allow someone completely unexpected to take the lead.
Alas, that last part is the exact reason some people believe it should be abolished.
As my colleague Stephen Stumpf mentioned in Stat Sheet, eight races of the 13 races this year have seen sprints of 10 laps or fewer, and more often than not the leader of the race before 10 to go has not won the race, largely in part due to crashes on the restart. The May 14 race at Darlington Raceway is perfect proof of that.
Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson were leading late in the race, and on a restart with less than 10 laps to go, Chastain, who restarted on the inside of Larson, washed up the track and wrecked himself and Larson, allowing Larson’s teammate William Byron to win the race. Byron, who ran in the top 10 most of the race, was not a contender for the lead much — that is, until the lead was placed in his lap.
Another example people will point to for the erasure of the double-file restart is this year’s race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. That race went into three overtimes because drivers, borderline intentionally, overdrove the hairpin turn 1 on the restart to gain spots. You know what they say: 20 tires are better than four.
Several cars got torn up unnecessarily in that race because the double-file restart caused drivers who restarted as far back as 15th to think they might have a shot to win the race if they overdrove the corner and used people up. And perhaps the worst part of all those overtimes was that there was no real surprise up front. Tyler Reddick, the clear favorite and most dominant car of the race, held off the field to win.
So not only did that race have a bunch of junked race cars due to desperation caused by the double-file restart, the outcome did not change at the front whatsoever. So why risk tearing up millions of dollars in equipment for the sake of potentially getting a surprise winner or that one driver finishing 10 positions above where they should have?
Besides that, IndyCar and Formula 1 do not utilize double-file restarts and both series still have the ability to produce exciting finishes — should there be a 10-lap or less sprint to the finish. NASCAR used to be the same way and even turned to double-file to put the lapped cars on the bottom as a way of trying to give those drivers a chance to unlap themselves, which would still create exciting racing for the leaders who couldn’t navigate the traffic that well.
On the superspeedway tracks, a single-file restart could help mitigate any sort of wreckfest that typically ensues within the final few laps of a superspeedway race. It could also give second-place an opportunity to plan a move anywhere on the track to pass the leader instead of just inside or outside, depending on where second restarts.
Most diehard NASCAR fans will recognize that the dominant car of the day should win the race — or finish top five at worst, accounting for a fading setup or something natural of that nature. But in a case like Darlington, the top three cars that led double-digit laps all wrecked on a restart and finished outside the top 20 (Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps, 145, and won stage one from the pole, but crashed out the restart before the Chastain-Larson incident, finishing a dismal 31st).
It doesn’t help that there seems to be a growing lack of respect in the garage area, amplifying the poor judgment on late sprints to the finish. But it’s got to be frustrating for owners to have one of their cars who was running up front come back to the race shop and go straight to the dumpster.
NASCAR seemed to listen to the drivers at the beginning of the 2023 season when they asked to test a bigger restart zone. NASCAR did so for the first five races before returning to the original restart zone length it has now. Maybe something similar should be tried for the double-file restart.
Let’s test the single-file restart again for five races. Heck, we could even retry the double-file restart, where the leaders are up top and the lapped cars are on the bottom. But maybe it’s time to retry some things that the sport did in its past that seemed to work. If it doesn’t work, oh well, at least we tried.
But if it does work, the return to single-file restarts could save owners and drivers a ton of money and frustration, and a lot of teams can get the opportunity to get the finishes they deserved.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the site's primary Truck Series reporter and writer, and contributes to SRX coverage, too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing his master of journalism at Temple University. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training outside of Frontstretch. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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