NASCAR, as has been customary in past years, has waited until just over a month away from the season-opening Daytona 500 to announce its newest tweaks to the already very thick rulebook.
Maybe the most significant change has nothing to do with the mechanical side of the sport, but instead has to do with what the drivers will be allowed to wear on race day.
Beginning this season, drivers can now wear biometric devices like the Fitbit while inside the car. As you would expect with the sanctioning body, only approved devices will be allowed to be worn. To be approved, the device must operate under its own internal power and not have the capability of transmitting data. Any data collected by the device cannot be downloaded either during qualifying or a race.
The one update that the series did expect was the reduction in the height of the rear spoiler. The series reduced the height of the spoiler for races at Kentucky and Michigan last season from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches in an effort to improve the racing by reducing the amount of downforce on the rear of the car. The results were positive enough after both of those races for the sanctioning body to go even further with the size of the spoiler by mandating a height of 2.35 inches for the upcoming season.
The remaining tweaks of the rulebook center around the restrictor plate racing at both Daytona and Talladega. The size of the holes in restrictor plates used at both tracks will now be 7/8 of an inch from 57/64 of an inch. NASCAR will also be requiring both the Monster Energy Cup Series and the Xfinity Series to have a roof hatch at both tracks and will make if optional for use at any of the other tracks on the schedule.
Another safety issue that NASCAR addressed for this season is the mandatory use of toe board energy absorbing material to strengthen the driver foot box. This new rule will also be used in both the Cup and Xfinity Series. The added weight of the energy absorbing material adds up to 20 pounds so NASCAR will be raising the minimum weight of the cars by the same amount. The sanctioning body hopes that the minimum weight will be a motivating factor for teams to use the material at every track.
These changes are apparently not the only changes that NASCAR may be making in the Cup Series. It has been reported, but not officially confirmed by NASCAR, that it has been in meetings with some of its partners and is said to be considering significant changes to the sport that could be put into place this season. Apparently track operators, teams, drivers and, as you would expect, the sport’s media partners have been involved in the meetings and have discussed changes that could include the format of the races and how the points would be rewarded.
While there has been no official release on specific changes that have been under discussion, it has been speculated that the length of races could be changed and that the race itself could be broken down into “heat” formats. Any talk of reducing the length of races would have to involve the individual tracks as the price of a ticket for a shortened race could come under fire by the fans.
Any changes that may be come out of these meetings will have to be approved by both FOX Sports and NBC that share the Monster Energy Cup Series schedule. Both networks have paid heavily for the right to broadcast their portion of the schedule and may not be willing to continue to pay the same amount for a shorter race.