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Cup drivers express desire for choose cone rule for restarts

Dale Jarrett and Mike Tirico discuss how NASCAR is taking advantage of being one of the first live sports to return and how this could help convert new fans.

During the course of Wednesday night’s Cup Series race at Darlington, Martin Truex Jr. was “murdered” on restarts as his No. 19 Toyota restarted in the inside lane most of the night.

At Darlington, where the outside lane is typically the strongest, that factored into Truex finishing 10th after running near the front much of the night.

Truex “would have loved to have seen” a choose cone in play to allow him the opportunity to choose to restart on the outside.

A choose cone, a method used on short tracks around the country, allows drivers to pick the lane they’ll restart in following a caution. A number of front runners could choose to restart in the preferred lane while a driver whose farther back could wind up choosing to restart on the front row next to the leader, giving them the chance to take advantage of track position.

“Probably had a top-three car and finished 10th because of inside restarts every single time,” Truex said Friday in a Zoom press conference. “That was frustrating. I would definitely be for (the choose cone). I think it’s a good option. I think it works well on the short tracks where they do it. I think with this rules package that we have at bigger tracks it would be something that as drivers we would all be interested in.”

The leading voice among drivers regarding the choose cone in recent days has been Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who tweeted about implementing the choose cone as far back as 2018.

Dillon brought the topic up again on Twitter Thursday morning after he finished 20th at Darlington.

Dillon addressed the subject in further detail Friday in a Zoom press conference.

“As a sport we’re always changing,” Dillon said. “We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.

“The choose cone is something that is utilized throughout short tracks in America. Dirt track, asphalt, you name it. You see it on a weekly basis at places that, heck, when I was Legends car racing at 14 with no radios, you could figure out how to make the choose cone work. You just chose and that was your line you had to make. This puts it in the driver’s hands. It kind of allows us to decide our fate when it comes down to restarts.”

Dillon also pointed to games played by drivers on pit road, as they brake check in order to leave pit road in a spot that will allow them to restart in the preferred lane.

“It takes out pit crew’s fast stops,” Dillon said. “Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do.”

Dillon said a group of drivers have discussed the choose rule and “feel like we can accomplish it as a group.”

“We’ve been able to bring our sport back through a pandemic, I think we can make a choose rule work,” Dillon added. “It’s not that complicated in my eyes.”

Dillon recommending trying the procedure out at a track like Michigan, a 2-mile speedway where the high line is strong and drivers would have more time to choose their lane.

“You lose three or four spots by the time you get to Turn 1 because of the draft there,” Dillon said. “So it would create a long time for them to straighten it out by the time we got around. I think, personally, the drivers can straighten it out themselves. You choose a line, you must stay in that line after that mark. If you swap lanes you’re automatically black flagged, brought to the back and if you don’t give up your position before the start, it’s a lap penalty.”

However, Dillon isn’t in a rush to force NASCAR into making a decision.

“I think they’re definitely open to it from the discussions I’ve had,” Dillon said. “I just feel like there’s a lot going on right now, so I can’t push too hard because they have a lot on their plate, but it is something that I wish that they would put kind of on the driver’s plate to kind of handle a little bit.”

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron believes a choose cone “would definitely be welcome for” drivers.

“Especially with how critical restarts are with this package, just the sheer track position that you can gain or lose in one restart alone is pretty huge and how close the field is,” Byron said. “I think the top 10-12 cars are typically, reasonably the same or close pace to each other. I think a choose cone would allow you to have some different options to be able to make a run and let’s say you lose track position on a pit stop or whatever. You could have the potential to gain that back. I can see something that’s maybe for the top 20 cars and maybe the last 20 just doubles up like normal so it’s not a huge confusion coming to a restart.”

Joey Logano is also a proponent of the choose rule.

“It’s not news I don’t think to any driver here, every meeting that I’ve had I’ve always brought up the choose rule. Let’s do it,” Logano said Friday in a Zoom press conference. “I see nothing bad that it can bring. It brings another strategy to the table, it’s definitely something to talk about. You don’t have luck becoming involved. ...

“I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out.”

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