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Does NASCAR Need to Further Crack Down on Restarts?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Following a disastrous restart in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire, NASCAR’s Elton Sawyer said on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio that he would issue “stern communication” to the drivers regarding restart etiquette. That stern warning came Sunday before the Cup Series race in the drivers meeting, where, according to Bob Pockrass, Sawyer told drivers not to lay back.

How did things work out last weekend? Well, the Cup Series had three consecutive accidents going into turn one on a restart to begin stage two. No penalties were assessed in the Cup Series, but there was a restart violation in the Xfinity Series race.

What, if anything can NASCAR do to clean some of this up? Or, is this simply down to driver aggression that NASCAR just cannot police? Here is a look at each incident, and what, if anything, that NASCAR can do.

Incident 1: Joey Logano and Daniel Suarez

Heading into turn one on lap 36, Joey Logano got squeezed heading into turn one, which triggered a multi-car accident. NASCAR did not seemingly see anyone laying back to get a run, so no action was taken. It seems this incident can mainly be chalked up to just close racing on a restart.

Sometimes accidents happen, and this is one of those instances. It’s hard to pass under green at Pocono, so drivers are extra aggressive on restarts. Sometimes that leads to incidents, and it leads to that land rush into turn one as we saw here.

Incident 2: Austin Dillon

This incident happened further into turn one, and it also happened near the back of the field. B.J. McLeod ended up making contact with Austin Dillon, sending the three car into a spin. This brought out another caution.

Sure, it is not a great look for the Cup Series drivers to fail to make it through turn one safely two restarts in a row. However, this was not because of anything that happened on a restart. This happened primarily because of a driver mistake down in the field, and that happens from time to time.

Incident 3: Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell

This incident was caused by Christopher Bell pushing Kyle Larson a bit too hard going into turn one. This caused Larson to get a bit squirrelly, and that caused the accident. Of all of the incidents, this is the one that could lead to any sort of “restart reform.”

Pushing on a restart has become common practice, particularly at big race tracks during recent years. It allows for a driver’s lane to gain more momentum than another lane. It’s exactly the same philosophy behind bump drafting in restrictor plate racing.

Could NASCAR say you cannot push on a restart, similar to how they banned the tandem draft in the Xfinity Series? They definitely could, and it may solve some of these issues, but it does take away from the “Contact” and “Rubbing is Racing” part of NASCAR that makes it so unique. So, there is a trade-off if NASCAR wants to go this route.

Can or Should Anything More Be Done?

The reality is that drivers are going to be aggressive on restarts. The risk that is run with each restart is that drivers get into another accident since everyone is running so close together. Especially at tracks as big and tough to pass on as Pocono.

Drivers know that restarts are their best opportunities to gain positions on the race track. As a result, aggression is heightened.

NASCAR could make changes. They could go back to single file restarts, but that may be unpopular amongst fans. Double file restarts were pretty well praised when implemented, and, aside from a few instances, have been relatively praised since then.

NASCAR could choose to ban pushing on restarts in addition to laying back. However, how can NASCAR realistically police that? What if someone in the front of the field spins their tires, and, as a result, jumbles up the entire field.

At that point, NASCAR would have to black flag everybody for pushing on a restart. Remember the old days when you could not beat the leader to the line on a restart? That led to some very controversial moments when the guy in second on the front row would beat the leader by simply getting a better restart. Indianapolis in 2012 in the Xfinity Series is an example of this.

Restarts are very difficult to police, and there is probably not much more NASCAR can do at the moment. However, if things like what happened at Pocono continue to happen more consistently, then NASCAR may have to do something. They did something in response to New Hampshire, so can they go further?

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Joshua Lipowski

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