My Thoughts on 2016 Racing Rule Changes

By David G. Firestone

The term “game changer” is thrown around an awful lot these days. It’s a new buzzword. It’s been thrown around so much that it has more or less lost its meaning. It’s really sad, because when a real game changer happens, it’s overlooked. The three point line, deferring the coin toss, the DH rule, and the goalie mask were all game changers. A new kind of wing sauce, an action movie, and a new car are not game changers.

I say this because last week, just before I went on Vacation, The NHRA made a huge game changer of an announcement. Starting in 2016, the “Back Up Certification Rule” which requires a run within one percent of a record setting run to certify it as a record has been eliminated. So, effective immediately, any run that is a record setting run is automatically the record.

I’ve never like the 1% rule, I thought is was pointless. However, in the early days of drag racing, the automatic timing equipment was far less reliable than the CompuLink systems we have today, so it was needed to work around that. Since 2009, the CompuLink system has been very effective, and the 1% rule was a dinosaur of a rule.

This is really going to change the game. Remember Brainerd last year? Oh yeah, how could you forget? There were six different record setting runs in the nitro categories. Yet only Jack Beckman and Antron Brown came away with a set record, because they backed it up with 1%, so two of the six runs were for naught. With the new rules package, all six of those runs would be record setting runs, and Matt Hagan, not Jack Beckman would have the national ET record, with a 3.879, instead of Jack Beckman’s 3.883.

With the Winternationals this weekend, could we see new national records set? Well the conditions are hotter than Brainerd, but if Nitro Spring Training is anything to go by, there is a lot of speed coming from the various teams. John Force Racing, Don Schumacher Racing, and Kalitta Motorsports had a lot of good showings, so it would not shock me if at least one record is set this weekend.

As a part of this rule change, the 20 point bonus for setting the national ET record has also been eliminated. Again, this is a real game changer of a rule. The key to winning the countdown is to get as many points as you can during those six events. Remember “The Run” in 2006? The record ET point bonus is what gave Tony Schumacher the title. This will have a definitive effect on the championship standings. I’ll be interested to see how this works out.

The other game changer is scheduled to be announced tomorrow. It’s the NASCAR charter system. I haven’t discussed my feelings on it yet, but I’m going to say that I think it’s pointless. I’ve heard it described as similar to a taxi medallion system, where the teams purchase the charter from NASCAR, and if the owner chooses to leave the sport, they can sell it. It seems like a pointless change, designed to get more cash out of team owners. Then again, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Brian France.

Above and beyond that, if the rumors I’ve heard are true, the races will only feature 40 drivers instead of 43. Why? What could this possibly accomplish? Were there any short fields in 2015? I don’t remember any, and even if there were, it really didn’t matter that much, as there are a number of “start and park” teams that will occupy the bottom. I’m not sure that this will change that much, then again, I’ve been wrong before.

I’m going to reserve my judgment on the Chase format for the Xfinity and Truck Series, as it could actually work out quite well. That said, I understand a lot of people hate the new system, but I like the idea of taking away mulligans and keeping the pressure up. I think there will be an interesting championship scenario this year.


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