NASCAR announced a number of rule changes for the 2023 season on Tuesday, and one is more notable than the rest.
A rule against replicating the thrilling wall-riding tactic employed by Ross Chastain in the "Hail Melon" last fall at Martinsville has been put in place. The NASCAR rulebook will now prevent drivers from deliberately riding the outside wall at full throttle as a last-ditch effort to make up time, as Chastain successfully did in order to make up six positions in the final corner to advance to last year's Championship 4.
While Chastain's move became an all-time highlight for the sport, it also came with a significant risk that Chastain himself acknowledged in the event the crossover gate in the Turn 4 wall had not been properly secured. As such, similar moves will now result in a timed penalty assessed at the end of the race, per Rule 10.5.2.6.A pertaining to "any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others".
Other rule changes for 2023 include:
- NASCAR has eliminated stage cautions on road courses in an effort to encourage and improve pit strategies in the races. While stage points will still be awarded on the stage-ending lap, the green-checkered flag will not be displayed and a competition caution will not be thrown to interrupt the race. This change will go into effect on all road courses except for stand-alone road course races in the Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series.
- NASCAR has revised its penalty structure for the loss of improperly-installed wheels after multiple teams had crew members be issued four-race suspensions for loose wheels throughout the course of the 2022 season. In the event that a team loses a wheel on pit road, they will be assessed a pass-through pit road penalty if the infraction occurs under green flag conditions. If the infraction occurs under caution, the offending team will have to restart from the tail end of the field.
- If an improperly-installed wheel comes off outside of pit road, the offending team will be assessed a two-lap penalty and two crew members will be issued a two-race suspension. These penalties will be series-specific, meaning that penalties occurred in one series will not preclude over-the-wall crew members from participating in another series.
- Wet weather equipment, including rain tires and windshield wipers, will now be permitted for use on several oval tracks that are one mile or less in length. These tracks include the Los Angeles Coliseum, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, Richmond Raceway, The Milwaukee Mile and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
- NASCAR removed a rule that had required winning drivers to be within the top 30 in Cup Series points (top 20 in the Xfinity and Truck Series) in order to be playoff eligible. All winning drivers will now be eligible for the playoffs as long as they participate in every race, unless they are granted a waiver by NASCAR in the event of injury or illness.
- The "Choose Rule" that has been in place on most tracks since 2020 has now been expanded to include all racetracks, which will now allow drivers to choose which lane they restart in on superspeedways, road courses, and Bristol Motor Speedway's Dirt configuration. The initial rule change only applied to superspeedways and Bristol Dirt before being expanded to include road courses in March.
- NASCAR will expand the size of the restart zone by 50% (25% in each direction) for the first five races of the 2023 season. The viability of the larger restart zone will be assessed following the fifth race of the season at Atlanta.
- NASCAR will now permit a seven-minute clock for teams to perform repairs to damaged cars under the sport's Damaged Vehicle Policy. Teams will not be permitted to use specialized repair tools.
- NASCAR has updated its rules on vehicle interference with crews during pit stops, adding that vehicles that encroach on other pit stalls when entering their own stall may be subject to penalty. Pit stalls will now be highlighted with new orange markings in order to assist officials in making such determinations.