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Most notable among them was the addition of wet weather tires at some oval tracks, and the barring of any future Ross Chastain-style wall-rides.
NASCAR will officiate it on a case-by-case basis, and the sport’s newly named Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer talked more about on the NASCAR Race Hub.
“As we looked at in the offseason and you know, it was a very exciting moment. It will go down in the history of our sport, if not the most exciting moment, (then) it’s in the top five for sure. It came with a great deal of excitement as I said, but it also came with a great deal of scrutiny. We met internally Monday after Martinsville (and) made a decision that we would officiate the championship weekend in Phoenix as we had the previous 35 races.”
“After gathering more information in the offseason, it just felt like that we needed to make a move. We needed to step in, and we will officiate that differently as we move into the ’23 season. It’s not brand new language … it is language that was in the rulebook and if we see that and deem that as an unsafe maneuver, then we would penalize and that would be a time or a lap penalty.”
The wall-ride wasn’t the first time Chastain put the NASCAR rule book to the test. Earlier in the same season, he blew Turn 1 and used the escape road at the Indianapolis Road Course to avoid an incident, but also gain ground on track. He took the race lead and ultimately finished second, but was handed a time penalty after the race.
Sawyer also touched on some of the other changes, explaining that the elimination of the top-30 in points requirement previously needed to remain eligible for the playoffs. Drivers need only attempt every race now.
“As far as the top 30 in points, as we digested that in offseason, we got 36 charter teams in the Cup Series and they all work extremely hard to get to the playoffs. And for a team to not have been in the top 30 and they won a race, and yet not getting the opportunity, just didn’t feel like it was fair. So we felt like it was the right thing going forward to make sure it was an equal opportunity there.”
In the highly competitive 2022 season, NASCAR came close to having a full-time driver outside the top-30 in points win a race on two separate occasions. Corey LaJoie crashed was battling for the lead with Chase Elliott in the second Atlanta race, and ended the year 31st in points.
Additionally, Cody Ware finished sixth and was in contention late in the regular season finale at Daytona. He was 32nd in the championship standings. LaJoie and Ware were the only two full-time drivers outside the top-30 in points last season.