Starting with this weekend's races, NASCAR will officially be adopting double-file restarts for all restarts in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck series.
"We've heard the fans loud and clear: 'Double-file restarts, shootout style' are coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series," said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France. "This addition to the race format is good for competition and good for the fans."
"I'm excited about it," said two-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. "The good thing is that when they drop the green, you're going to be racing with the guys you're racing for position instead of trying to clear lapped cars.
Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick said, "I think it's great that NASCAR is listening to the fans. These new restart procedures are going to make our sport even more exciting than it already is. This will not only benefit the lead-lap cars, but also the cars that go a lap down, so you get the best of both worlds."
NASCAR has been using the double-file restart policy in its annual All-Star event and it created a very unpredictable finish in this year's race a few weeks ago, sparking conversation about using that for the entire season.
"The last 10 laps of the recent Sprint All-Star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway proved that the double-file restart concept works well," said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Short tracks have been doing this for years, and I have no doubt that it will enhance the excitement of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. I applaud NASCAR's decision to implement this change immediately. Close competition gives our fans a great entertainment value."
Under the previous format, cars on the lead lap would restart in a single-file line while cars that had been lapped would start in a line next to them.
Under the new format, the race leader will have the option to restart on the inside or outside lane. The second-place driver would then restart next to the leader.
Regardless of where the leader starts, drivers in odd number positions (third, fifth, seventh places, etc.) will restart on the inside lane, while drivers in even number positions (fourth, sixth, eighth places, etc.) will restart on the outside.
All restarts will use the same format regardless of the number of laps remaining in the race.
The first-place driver will continue to control the timing of restarts in a designated zone on the track. Likewise, cars are to stay in line until they reach the start/finish line.
The first eligible car a lap or more down will continue to earn one lap back following a caution, which is known as the "free pass." However, a new element beginning this week will be that the "free pass" will remain in effect the entire race.
Much like the policy used by Indy Racing League, lapped cars choosing to remain on the track will be "waved around" the caution car and will restart the race in respective track position, thus picking up a lap on the leader provided the leader also pits.
This will also remove lapped cars from behind the pace car, allowing the leaders to take the green without interference.
More information and reactions from drivers and teams will come soon, and we'll see how this experiment will work in creating more exciting finishes this weekend at Pocono and in the coming weeks in NASCAR's top-three divisions.