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NASCAR makes competition changes to Bristol Cup race

NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race Practice

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 26: A general view of the pit area during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 26, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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NASCAR will add two competition cautions, increase the amount of tires teams can have and adjust the stage lengths after issues with excessive tire wear Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

NASCAR made the decision after talks with drivers, teams, track officials and Goodyear officials.

In essence, there will be a caution every 50 laps in the 250-lap race so teams can change tires. That also will allow for additional track prep during the event.

NASCAR competition changes for Sunday’s Bristol Cup race:

  • Competition caution at Lap 50
  • Stage 1 ends at Lap 100 (instead of Lap 75)
  • Competition caution at Lap 150
  • Stage 2 ends at Lap 200 (instead of Lap 150)
  • On the competition cautions at Lap 50 and 150, caution laps will not count once NASCAR sends the free pass car around. (That already was in place for the stage breaks).
  • NASCAR also announced each team will receive an additional set of tires. That will allow teams to have six sets for the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Saturday that the changes “just kind of assures us that the story will be about the racing, and trying to ask the tires to do more than they can isn’t in the best interest of anybody.”

Miller said the tire wear issue was “widespread enough to where it certainly became a concern. As with any wear, the way that the drivers are actually driving the car and their aggressiveness on the throttle contributes to that, but even the ones that went out in the second practice (Friday) and tried to manage it more than they normally would were still kind of the side of high wear. We need this show to be great, so we need to err on the side of caution.

“Track prep is a wildcard in all of this because that’s kind of unpredictable. It’s nice to think that you can prepare the track different, but when it gets windy or sunny or its overcast, that’s going to present a different kind of track condition no matter how hard we try. Just to make sure we were on the good side of things, all of those things led to the decision that we did.”

NASCAR previously planned to not have caution laps count between the stage breaks after the free pass car got its lap back. Now, that will also be done with the competition cautions.

The additional breaks will allow more track prep. Miller doesn’t anticipate the prep work excessively delaying the race’s resumption.

“We really feel like that with the breaks that we have built in with this sort of change in format that we’ll be able to stay ahead of the dust and keep water in the top (lane),” Miller said. “That’s the key, keep water in the top to allow the track to keep getting wider and wider as we go. When it gets super dusty up there, they just can’t can’t go up there, but if we keep that moist, than the racing groove will widen out and give us our best shot at having a fantastic finish.”