NASCAR’s stupidest rule change ever causes a wreck in Truck Series race

NASCAR has a total of three national stock car racing divisions. The series that virtually all NASCAR fans are familiar with is the Sprint Cup Series(NSCS), the highest level of NASCAR-sanctioned racing. The second-highest level of NASCAR-sanctioned racing is the Xfinity Series (NXS), a series designed as a developmental series, but most races are won by drivers who compete full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.

The third-highest level of NASCAR-sanctioned racing is the Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), a series that features full-fledged race cars designed to look like half-ton pickup trucks like the Toyota Tundra, the Ford F-150, and the Chevrolet Silverado. For this season, NASCAR made a rule change, which only applies in the NCWTS, in which the race cannot be run under green flag conditions for more than 20 minutes continuously at paved tracks (the caution clock rule will not be used at Eldora Speedway, the only dirt track where the NCWTS races, due to the only NCWTS event there being a multi-segment race). If 20 minutes has elapsed from either the initial start of the race or the most recent restart, NASCAR officials will throw the yellow flag, which requires the field to slow down, not pass each other, and line up behind the pace car, for a few laps. Remember, this rule change only applies in the NCWTS, not (to my knowledge) any NASCAR-sanctioned regional series or the two highest-level NASCAR national series.

In the first NCWTS race where the caution clock rule was in effect, held last night at Daytona International Speedway, no competition caution was needed, because the caution clock never hit zero. However, at one point in the race, the caution clock came very close to hitting zero. Daytona is a track where a NCWTS truck takes about 50 seconds or so to complete a lap (although slightly shorter if multiple trucks are lined up in a manner to use the airflow around the trucks to go faster as a group), so a driver who is at or near the front of the field can make a pit stop under green-flag conditions and, barring any difficulties in the pit crew completing the stop, exit the pits before being lapped by any lead-lap car that chose not to pit on the same lap. Because of that, several drivers attempted to legally game the system by pitting under the green flag right before the caution clock hit zero. That resulted in drivers Cody Coughlin and Spencer Gallagher spinning their trucks in an attempt to enter pit road under green-flag conditions; Coughlin hit a steel-and-foam energy reduction (SAFER) barrier between the runoff area on the inside of the track before the pit entrance and the garage area, and Gallagher collided with Christopher Bell as Bell entered pit road. Bell’s car spun into the pit boxes closest to the entrance to pit road; luckily, no trucks were pitting in those pit boxes at the time of the crash. Had there been trucks pitting in the pit boxes near the pit entrance, Bell’s car would have likely spun into pitting trucks and/or pit crew members, which would have likely resulted in injuries to pit crew members.

The NCWTS caution clock rule has had the unintended consequence of making NASCAR’s third-highest series more dangerous to compete in, and NASCAR should scrap the rule entirely. Thankfully, this rule won’t be in effect for Xfinity Series or Sprint Cup Series events.

Also, on a side note, Vince Welch, who does play-by-play commentary for NCWTS races for Fox-owned FS1, is an absolutely awful play-by-play announcer. Welch doesn’t talk a whole lot during the race, mostly letting color commentators Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip do most of the talking during the race. When Welch does talk, he doesn’t show much excitement, in stark contrast to, for example, Mike Joy, FOX’s Sprint Cup series play-by-play announcer, Ralph Shaheen, who did some NCWTS races for FS1 last season due to the death of Steve Byrnes, or Rick Allen, who is easily NBC’s best sportscaster (to the point that Allen should have a much higher-profile job at NBC, such as anchoring NBC Nightly News or doing play-by-play for NBC Sunday Night Football) and does Sprint Cup races for NBC and NBCSN.

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