Roger Diez: The Clash ready to rock in a week |

Roger Diez: The Clash ready to rock in a week

Roger Diez

With the Clash only a week away and the Daytona 500 a mere 15 days in the future, NASCAR continues to roll out changes and enhancements for the 2017 season. The sanctioning body announced last week it would address something that has been an annoyance to me for years. OK, they didn’t do it just for me, but to make racing just a bit safer. I have long asked why cars are allowed to come back out on the track after a wreck any insurance company would declare to be a total loss. These cars are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of laps down and circulate at a non-competitive pace, often shedding parts that cause debris cautions. Well, NASCAR has finally said, “Enough!”

The new policy will apply to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. Basically, teams will no longer be allowed to replace body panels that have been damaged in a wreck. Teams can repair damaged sheet metal, but have only five minutes to do so. Cars that exceed the five minute limit or that are taken behind the pit wall or to the garage, will not be allowed to return to the race. Cars that have been repaired within the five minute limit (timed from pit entrance to pit exit) will be required to maintain minimum speed set for the race. Cars can make a second stop to effect additional repairs, but that stop is also subject to another five minute time limit. Additional stops can also be made, each subject to its own five minute clock. These rules apply only to cars damaged by an accident or contact. Mechanical or electrical issues (dead battery, broken shock, etc.) aren’t subject to the five minute time limit. So basically, if your car is in a bad wreck and can’t be repaired in under five minutes and without replacing body parts (splitter, fenders, hood, etc.), your race is over.

The rationale behind this move, according to NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller, is safety, both for drivers and crews. Hurried repairs made by large numbers of crew members expose both drivers and mechanics to possible injury. There’s also the fact NASCAR officials can more easily observe repairs made in pit lane than in the garage. So, like it or not, this rule appears to be here to stay.

Speaking of safety, NASCAR has finally done what other sanctioning bodies did many years ago. The IndyCar series has the Holmatro Safety Team, NHRA has their Safety Safari. NASCAR will add a dedicated safety team including a doctor and paramedic, that will follow the series and participate in on-track response. NASCAR will partner with American Medical Response (AMR), to provide this much-needed capability. The infield Care Center will still have emergency room physicians from each track’s local community, providing quick access to local hospitals and air transportation if needed. AMR will provide a physician to provide liaison with NASCAR’s consulting physicians and to oversee trackside services provided by the chase car team which will respond to all on-track incidents.

The IndyCar Series is a Phoenix International Raceway for a two-day open test. Nearly all the series drivers, 21 in total, are participating. The test wraps up today, and you can catch the action on, where it’s streaming live.

In other IndyCar news, former IndyCar champion Tony Stewart (who also had some modest success in stock cars) is returning to the Indy 500 as a sponsor. The Tony Stewart Foundation has formed Team One Cure, which is involved in the search for a cancer cure. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 77 will be sponsored in the 500 by Team One Cure, with a driver to be named later. Maybe Tony himself?

The Formula One World Championship teams are gearing up for the 2017 season, and dates for pre-season testing have been announced. Tests will take place at Barcelona’s Catalunya circuit from Feb. 27 to March 2 and again from March 7-10. This will be the only testing teams will be allowed before the season begins in Australia on March 26.