NASCAR unveiled its 2013 rules changes on Tuesday, and they include adjustments to three main areas: Sprint Cup Series qualifying, testing and the size of Nationwide Series fields.
All appear to be quite positive, though the biggest plus is this: The much-maligned Top 35 rule is dead.
Instead of 35 cars already being locked into each race via owner points before the weekend even starts, now only six will be guaranteed a spot based on owner points. The 36 fastest cars will make the field, followed by the next six cars in owner points who need a spot, then by the most recent past Cup champion in need of a position.
That should make qualifying better to watch, since almost all of the fastest cars will make the field every week instead of only having a few spots available – as has been the case since 2005.
In addition, the previous season's owner points will only help teams for the first three races in all series next season. Until now, Cup teams had five races with last season's points and Nationwide/Trucks had four.
One change that doesn't seem to make as much sense: Qualifying order will now return to a random draw instead of basing it on speeds from the first practice (which had the fastest cars go out last). That might take away some drama since there's no guarantee when the fastest cars will take their laps.
In case of a rainout, the rulebook will determine which drivers get into the field – but the starting lineup will be set by practice speeds.
Another change: NASCAR teams can test again. Since 2009, NASCAR has banned individual testing at any NASCAR-sanctioned track – which meant teams often went to places like Nashville and couldn't use the tires they race on.
Now, each organization will be allowed to test four times per season. That should benefit the big teams much more, because their information sharing extends from organization to organization (like SHR's alliance with Hendrick Motorsports).
In Nationwide and Trucks, each organization will get two tests – plus an extra test if the team has a rookie.
Nationwide Series fields shrink
Additionally, NASCAR wisely reduced the size of the Nationwide Series fields from 43 cars to 40 starting next season. That series has been overrun with start-and-park teams, so the change will cut three cars out of the race who weren't going to actually compete anyway.
Sprint Cup Series fields remain at 43 cars and Camping World Truck Series fields will stay at 36.