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Woody: Restart of Tomorrow Is A Winner

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 16 2009
Taking green flags on restarts is twice as much fun these days. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Taking green flags on restarts is twice as much fun these days. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The National Football League just announced that midway through the upcoming season it’s going to shorten the field to 90 yards, give each offense five downs instead of four, and limit the defense to nine men on the field.

And one other thing – all field-goal kickers have to wear pink tutus.

The NFL believes the rule changes will liven up the game and create more interest.

That might be a bit far-fetched (perhaps) in the NFL, but not in the wide, weird world of NASCAR, where rules are written in vanishing ink and interpreted by wandering gypsy fortune-tellers.

In NASCAR the rules aren’t etched in stone; they’re scrawled in the sand of a tide-pool.

No other sport would dare make a major, game-changing rule change in the middle of the season, but that’s exactly what NASCAR did a couple of weeks ago. President Mike (Moses) Helton came down off the mountain with a new commandment which read:

“Verily, thou shalt re-start all races double-file. Go forth and multiply thy lead changes.”

Or something like that.

So two races ago NASCAR put in the new double-file restart rule in the Sprint Cup Series. (Oddly it used its premier series for the experiment instead of conducting a flight-test with its second-tier or third-tier divisions, but that’s another story for another soap box.)

And guess what: It’s working.

NASCAR’s famed Car of Tomorrow failed to juice up the show. Maybe the Restart of Tomorrow can do it.

It shouldn’t take a genius to figure that the racing will be friskier if, on re-starts, the lead-lap cars are bunched up side-by-side instead of strung out single-file halfway around the track.

Under the old rule a lead-pack car in 30th position would re-start with 29 cars in front of it and an equal of lapped cars ahead in the other row. Under the new rule the 30th-place car gets to restart with only 14 cars ahead of it and no worrisome lapped cars to trip over.

Naturally it makes for better racing because it puts more competitive cars up front on each re-start.

Drivers claim to like it, which is a bit odd – they gripe about the bunched-up racing at Talladega, and that’s exactly what the new re-start rule does: bunch ‘em up.

Why did NASCAR make such a drastic change in mid-season? Because it looked it its slumping attendance and tumbling TV ratings and knew it had to do something to liven things up. The once-rollicking sport of stock car racing was threatening to create a national insomnia pandemic.

Road Hog, a life-long racing fan and my trusty technical advisor, likes the new rule. As we watched one of the new-fangled re-starts awhile back Road Hog had just one question about NASCAR’s innovative change:

“Dang, what took ‘em so long?”

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 16 2009
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