Changes and Changes
Over the past 30 years NASCAR has undergone changes, both good and bad; some with safety in mind, some with evening the field in mind, but each change has brought about some squawking among the fans. Let’s look at some of these and how they have affected racing.
Lots of changes over the years have been in the name of safety, and like them or hate them they have been for the good. One of the first ones that comes to mind is safety belts. I think of this rule change where drivers were forced to install, and wear seat belts and I remember a conversation with 1960 NASCAR Champion Rex White. I asked Rex once what rule changes that he has seen in his years of racing that he liked, and right away he mentioned when they mandated belts. “You see when I first started, we were still racing with factory seats, you know the bench seat.” Rex started, “At some of the tracks we had such a side load that it was hard to stay behind the wheel; Now some of the drivers were big strong guys who had arms like hams, but me, I wasn't that lucky. I was a bit smaller than some and it took all I had to stay on the left side of the car” Rex smiles “ When we put the belts in I could now stay on the left side of the car and focus on driving without sliding across the seat.” I guess you could say Rex really liked that rule.
But you look at some rules like the Pit Road Speed rule; this was brought about after Bill Elliott crewman Mike Rich was killed on pit road. It had gotten just way too dangerous on pit road for the crews and I don't know anyone who was against this one.
Another rule that Bill Elliott played a part in was the restrictor plates. Over the winter of 86-87 the Elliotts had done lots of work looking for speed. And when they unloaded in Daytona, they set NASCAR on its ear with a qualifying lap of 210.364 MPH NASCAR came unglued! Oh no, that was way too fast! Still, if you look back there were only 4 cautions with no big crashes, and great racing at the end. BUT NASCAR didn't like the Fords running so fast, so they made a mid-season rule change where the sleek Thunderbirds were raised 1/2” and the Monte Carlo's were lowered 1/2”; then things roll around to Talladega and Bill Elliott goes 212.809 setting the all-time record that still stands today… and brought out the restrictor plates, which allowed drafting like never before, and brought about the huge wrecks we have come to expect today.
In 2007 NASCAR came out with the COT, or Car of Tomorrow. The car was supposed to be designed to keep drivers safer and make it cheaper for teams to compete. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Teams spent millions on this car trying to make it run faster, but it was slower. The silly wing that was mandated on the back was hated by fans and drivers alike. It wound up not being cheaper to build, it produced poor racing and in general was hated by everyone. It also caused some of the smaller teams to shut down due to the high cost of making this farce of a car raceable. BUT it did bring about some safety changes and after major changes to it, it became competitive to some point.
In 2009 we had the new double file restarts come about. Before that year, lap cars lined up on the inside while the lead lap cars lined up on the outside coming to green, giving the cars a lap down a chance to race the leaders to get back on the lead lap. Along with this rule change you also saw the “wave around”, giving cars that didn't pit but were a lap down a chance to stay on the lead lap, by going around the leader and join the field at the rear. While this rule change riled lots of fans when it came out, it actually helped and made things safer for the lead lap cars as well as the cars one lap down by not making them race so hard on the restart which often resulted in some pile ups.
2016 saw the new “Charter System” where 36 teams who had raced full time for the previous 4 years were locked in. This rule was a death blow to the smaller teams because without a “Charter” they could not race. And teams were selling, or leasing charters they were not using to lower teams thus driving up the cost to teams just trying to get in the sport. That in turn fed the super teams more and more leeway in controlling the sport.
These are just a few of many rules changes that have affected NASCAR over the years. I would like to hear from you, the reader, which ones bother you the most.
Thanks for reading and, Cya@theraces