It’s no secret that the sport is in a state of purgatory right now.
Not only is that evident by the fact that a lot of fans have sworn off the sport from good, but also by the constant barrage of changes that NASCAR officials keep feeling justified in making. While some rule changes have actually helped the sport in one way or another and even contributed to a better on track product, there are others that have sent it into a tailspin.
Drivers all have differing opinions on the amount of changes NASCAR has made. While some feel those in charge are just trying their best, others feel the barrage of changes will hurt the sport.
"[The sport] has always had drama, but not like this," 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski told ESPN. "It's a different day, a different era for sure."
"I'm so close to it and see what's going on, and I respect and appreciate all of the hard work that's going into these decisions and the reasons behind them," Jimmy Johnson said. "I get it and think that everybody is just trying really hard to get things right."
With that being said and NASCAR still in a state of panic due to lack of fan support, decreased marketability and some of the most bonkers rule making ever seen in the sports history, here are ten rule changes that helped the sport and ten that hurt it. What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think about these rule changes NASCAR made.
20 Hurt: Caution Clock
In what had to be one of the dumbest moves ever conjured up by NASCAR officials, they decided to insert a 30 minute caution clock into Camping World Truck Series races back in 2016.
Although the clock did achieve the goal of bunching up the field and making things a little more competitive, the idea just seemed so unoriginal.
Of course NASCAR seemed to get the idea after a string of successful heat races in The Xfinity Series, but this was probably not the incarnation of the rule that fans wanted. Not only did the caution clock seem completely arbitrary and a stab in the dark that reeked of desperation, it also was critically panned by fans everywhere.
In fact, the idea only lasted a year and was then abandoned.
19 Helped: Double File Restarts
If nothing else, the decision to implement double file restarts in NASCAR was a turning point for the sport and one of the few times NASCAR and its fans were able to work together to initiate change. In fact, the addition of double file restarts is probably one of the most popular rule changes in the modern era of the sport and introduced a whole new strategy to racing.
Not only did double file restarts force drivers to defend their position on restarts, it also gave more drivers a chance to stay competitive and compete for the win. Sure, it didn’t work every single time and there are a lot of times that the lead car just pulls away again, but at least it gave fans a chance at seeing a good finish.
18 Hurt: Disallow Racing To The Line
NASCAR has made quite a few controversial rule changes in the name of safety over the last decade or so, but none have been lamer than disallowing drivers from racing to the line. While NASCAR reconciled this by giving fans an overtime format, it still was a huge disappointment to see a race end abruptly under caution.
The move was one of many made after the untimely passing of Dale Earnhardt in The 2001 Daytona 500 and the sport should definitely be respected for doing everything they can to make NASCAR safer.
In the end, it was something that seemed to take away from the competitive nature that the sport was known for many years ago, but it also gave fans some of the worst finishes the sport has ever seen.
17 Helped: New Overtime Rule
NASCAR started toying with an overtime format since the late 2000s. After a controversial finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which featured several restarts and one of the most ridiculous finishes in NASCAR history, officials decided to show some consistency with their overtime format.
While overtime was originally placed near the entrance of turn three, NASCAR changed the rule to require drivers finish an entire lap before the race is called.
Not only did this allow for fans to get a better view of the finish, it also finally required drivers to complete an entire lap before NASCAR would consider calling the race.
Of course it took NASCAR a while to get to this point and featured many bad incarnations along the way, but it was truly a cathartic feeling when NASCAR announced this change.
16 Hurt: Old Overtime Format
Let's be honest here. There are few things that angered fans as much as the old overtime rule did and while NASCAR finally got things right in 2017 by moving it to the start finish line, it came after years of backlash. Not only did the ridiculous rule end the race on the backstretch if a driver crossed the line after a caution came out, the line was also at a part of the track of which a lot of fans didn’t have a decent view.
In the end, NASCAR finally did the right thing by fans and should be commended for doing so, but the time that it took to get to this point is honestly inexcusable and indicative of NASCAR officials being out of touch with their fan base.
15 Helped: Stage Racing
Whether NASCAR fans want to admit it or not, stage racing is something that has added a much needed extra wrinkle to the sport and gave each race championship implications in the process. The rule was first announced at the beginning of the 2017 season and broke each race into three different stages for drivers to complete.
The new format also allowed drivers to accumulate points in other ways like leading the race, leading the most laps, finishing in the top-ten at the end of each stage and various other things.
Not only did this put a bigger emphasis on the postseason, especially since winning stages could result in a big lead at the start of each round of the playoffs, it also created an extra strategy to the race, which was very much appreciated by fans.
14 Hurt: Overtime Rules At The End Of Stages
NASCAR has been known for overcompensating in the past and there are few better examples than the sport's overtime rule at the end of the each stage. While NASCAR made the right decision by moving the overtime line to the start finish line and giving the field an unlimited amount of attempts to finish the race, they did the same at the end of each stage as well.
Not only does the overtime rule at the end of each stage delay the race each time that drivers are unsuccessful in making it past the overtime line, it also creates a chaotic nature at the end of each stage, which holds the possibility of drivers tearing up their cars prematurely.
13 Helped: Boys, Have At It
Believe it or not, NASCAR’s 2010 decision to have drivers police themselves was one of the best ideas the sport ever had. Not only did it allow for an unpredictable nature on race day, it also helped create some of NASCAR’s most memorable moments in the 2010s. Of course the rule wasn’t perfect and NASCAR had to step in from time to time, but the wild west attitude of it all was enough to entice fans.
Sure, not everyone came out of it unscathed and there was definitely a line drawn in the sand, but it a good time to be a NASCAR fan.
In the end, boys have at it didn’t last and while it had a lot to do with NASCAR repeatedly stepping in when drivers got out of hand, there were also safety problems that hindered the era’s success as well.
12 Hurt: Waiver Rule
Kyle Busch is a very polarizing figure in the sport of NASCAR and he only became more so after winning The Monster Energy Cup Series title in 2015. While the accomplishment was well deserved, especially since Busch came back from two fractures in his legs to win five races and make the playoffs, fans were upset over the fact that he won the championship without competing in every race that season.
While Busch fans were happy their favorite driver was still allowed to qualify for the playoffs, other fans thought it was wrong to drivers that had competed all season long.
NASCAR created the rule in 2015 in an effort to help drivers preserve their health and not rush back to racing after an injury, but it was critically panned by angry fans anyway.
11 Helped: Safer Barriers
The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier or SAFER Barrier has been a staple in motorsport racing for the past two decades, but it wasn’t always that way.
Safer barriers, which are also known as soft walls, worked by lessoning the impact that a driver would suffer during an accident by relying on foam to absorb the energy of the wreck. The technology was designed by the University of Nebraska in 1998 and was first installed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002. Most NASCAR and Indycar tracks had the technology installed by 2005.
In the end, safer barriers were one of the best safety innovations ever implemented in NASCAR or any other form of auto racing and NASCAR should be very proud at installing them at their tracks.
10 Hurt: Constant All Star Format Changes
Few things were as painful to watch as NASCAR’s repeated attempts to create an interesting all-star race and while officials finally made the right changes in 2018, it took a long time to get there. Of course all mainstream sports have struggled to make their respective all-star events more interesting for fans, but that problem was especially hard for NASCAR.
NASCAR has made many changes to the All-Star race over the past decade, but they seemingly kept missing the mark when it came to excitement. Not only was that evident by the fact a driver would literally run from the field at the beginning of the race and be impossible to catch, but also by how lackluster the racing actually was.
NASCAR’s All-Star race has been a joke for a while now and all the gimmicky changes they continued to make over the years definitely didn’t help things at all.
9 Helped: Qualifying For The Playoffs
In an effort to put more emphasis on winning races, NASCAR announced a new playoff format in 2014 that would allow drivers to qualify for the postseason by winning a race throughout the regular season.
Although the format was far from perfect and created fears of sandbagging once a driver qualified, it still created a level of chaotic excitement that hadn’t been seen before.
NASCAR even made it so that drivers in the playoffs who won a race would automatically qualify for the next round, which was another brilliant idea on NASCAR’s part. In the end, the rule has created some controversy, especially when drivers take each other out in hopes of dashing their championship hopes, but it also helped create some of the better races that fans have seen in a long time.
8 Hurt: The Car Of Tomorrow
The Car of Tomorrow was a very controversial time in NASCAR’s history and while the sport had the intention of trying to make the sport safer, the car’s boxy design and poor handling turned a lot of NASCAR fans off when they first debut. In fact, moments after winning the first Car of Tomorrow race in 2005, Kyle Busch told reporters he hated the car and that it didn’t drive well.
With that being said NASCAR didn’t fully implement The Car of Tomorrow until 2006, which was only one year after NASCAR tested the new design at a variety of race tracks throughout the season. In the end, NASCAR finally made a change in 2013 by introducing The Gen Six car, but the damage was already done and a lot of fans left the sport over the issue..
7 Helped: Limiting Participation In Lower Tiered Series
Not only did NASCAR make it a rule that drivers could only compete for one series championship each year, they also limited participation in the Xfinity and CWTS.
While the move was celebrated by a lot of NASCAR fans, it was also decried by drivers as being not in the spirit of competition. Interestingly enough, NASCAR is thinking about lowering the amount of races Cup drivers can compete in, which has been met with controversy as well.
In the end, NASCAR needs to find the right balance between doing what’s best for younger drivers and still allowing the veterans to compete in lower tiered series’.
6 Hurt: Brian France Taking Over Control Of NASCAR
When Brian France took over control of NASCAR in 2003, some wondered what the future of the sport would hold.
Unfortunately for a lot of longtime NASCAR fans, it turned out to be a disaster as France implemented change after change that drove fans away.
The final straw came during the 2016 Championship award cermoney, where France presented Martin Truex Jr with the series championship, shoved it in his hand and quickly walked off. Fans later speculated that he snubbed Martin Truex Jr at the award show and that this proved he no longer cared about the sport.
In the end, he has made a lot of questionable decisions over the course of his time as CEO and it has played a key role in driving fans away from the sport in droves.
5 Helped: Higher Catch Fences
It's no secret that the most important part of any sport is their fans and while NASCAR hasn’t always been the best at realizing that, they definitely did when fans safety was at risk.
NASCAR responded to that by raising the height of the catch fence to eight feet in order to protect drivers and fans in future accidents. In the end, there were other examples of cars being catapulted into the catch fence during a wreck, and NASCAR fans being injured in the process, but NASCAR has since continued to try to make the race day experience safer for fans in every way they can.
4 Hurt: 5 Minute Repair Rule
NASCAR officials making bad decisions is nothing new, especially with the string of changes that they made following the acquisition of Monster Energy as a primary sponsor, but the worst of them all had to be the repair rule they tried to implement in 2017. The rule made it so teams only had five minutes to get a car repaired and back on the track before it was ruled out of the race completely.
Not only was the rule controversial due to the fact that it ran the possibility of forcing drivers to retire from a race early, it also seemed like NASCAR just did it to manufacture excitement throughout the season.
In the end, the rule was changed to a six minute clock at the start of the 2018 season.
3 Helped: 2018 All-Star Race Format
Let it be known. 2018 was the year that NASCAR finally got the all-star race format exactly right. While the 2018 edition of NASCAR’s version of The All Star race still produced a very predictable and unexciting outcome, especially after Kevin Harvick pulled away to win the whole the thing, the changes they did make seemed to make the race better in a lot of ways.
Not only did NASCAR implement a restrictor plate package that would bunch up the field for a majority of the race, which created more competitive side by side racing, they also introduced a new splitter on the cars that would help eliminate the advantage that a lead car had. Again, it wasn’t perfect and the field wasn’t able to chase down Harvick to win the race, but it was a monumental step forward!
2 Hurt: NASCAR Moving To NBC
NASCAR struck a deal with NBC worth $4.4 billion to air the second half of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season over the next 10 years. Not only were fans subjected to some of the worst television execution in the sports history, some fans couldn’t even watch the race due to it not being on a main channel anymore.
Of course part of the deal with NBC allowed for a certain number of races to be broadcast on NBC, which would give the sport a chance to appeal to a new fan base, but it was not fun for longtime fans at all. In the end, NBC continues to air less and less races on their main channel every year and that should be a sign more than anything that this partnership isn’t panning out how NBC has hoped.
1 Helped: Heads Of Championship Format
While most mainstream sports have a championship game at the end of the season, which put two teams on an equally playing field for the chance to win a championship, NASCAR’s previous format disallowed such a thing from happening.
In fact, there have been many seasons throughout NASCAR’s history where the series champion was decided weeks in advance because the leading driver had too big of a lead in the points. This meant all the driver leading the points would have to do was start the championship race and they would automatically win the title.
Not only did NASCAR unveil a four round championship playoff format with four drivers eliminated every round and a win guaranteeing a spot in the next round, they also implemented a heads up format at the end of the season as well. This meant that the four drivers that were left standing at Homestead would compete to be the highest finishing driver and win the championship.