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What Changes Has NASCAR Made to Next Gen Car, Rule Book for 2023?

Enhanced safety guidelines for the second-year Next Gen top the changes afoot in the Cup Series.      

By Andrew Woodin
Crowd cheering during a nascar race

Racing fans are eagerly anticipating the official start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series with the fabled Daytona 500 on Feb. 19. And an even more impressive milestone is being celebrated: NASCAR’s 75th anniversary.

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You don't stick around that long in U.S. sports without constantly evolving and this year is no different. And when your sport consists of cars racing at 200 mph or more, successfully navigating the nexus of safety, fan experience and technological innovation is crucial. With that directive in mind, NASCAR has rolled out a host of new rules and and changes to the Next Gen car to ensure this season features both heart-pumping excitement and driver safety.

How Is The Next Gen Car Changing?

It was a recurring theme last year: the new Next Gen cars, which were intended to level the playing field between racing houses and promote increased competition, experienced significant growing pains, not least of which were a series of hood fires and the tendency of crashes to be high-impact, and thus, even more dangerous to drivers. To wit, Kurt Busch was sidelined with impact-driven concussion in July that forced him into an early retirement.

RELATED: NASCAR’s Kyle Larson And Wife Katelyn Welcome New Baby Boy To The Family

Frustrated with the myriad of safety issues, drivers spoke out. And NASCAR heeded the call to action and made several changes to the Next Gen car. Designers and engineers teamed up to forge a car that took into considerations all the drivers’ concerns, and the result is a significant overhaul. In a clear effort to enhance the vehicle’s ability to collapse and diffuse energy away from the cockpit, metal bars have been removed in some areas while others have been perforated with holes. Rear clips and bumpers have been altered, while the cooling vents have been enlarged.

"We started having regular meetings during the fall, like every week, and those have pretty much continued ever since, and I am thankful for that," driver Chase Elliott revealed to ESPN earlier this year. "But it's the broken record of auto racing, right? We have to let stuff get bad before we fix it. Alex [Bowman] had to miss races. Kurt Busch had to retire. Then we start talking about changing the car?”

“It's up to all of us to change that, [and] I think we are,” added Elliott. “I hope we are, but we'll see."

Despite the changes, the 2023 season’s inaugural practice day still produced a scary cockpit fire that erupted inside Ty Gibbs’ No. 54 Toyota Camry.

What Are NASCAR's Rule Changes For 2023?

NASCAR’s historic 75th season have also made some rule book changes and, sorry, Ross Chastain, one of them is tailored specifically for you. Though visually awesome to behold, Chastain’s miraculous Martinsville wall-ride maneuver is officially out. Fearful it might spawn dangerous copycat moves, NASCAR’s has clarified that any such maneuvers will carry a time penalty this season.

Some other changes:

  • The league also nixed stage cautions at the six road course events due to their time delays. 
  • There will be harsher penalties for loose tires on pit row: teams in violation will be subject to a pass-through penalty under green and be sent to the back of the pack under yellow. And if a tire is lost on the race track, there will be both a two-lap penalty and two-race suspension for two crew members. 
  • There'll be no more “top-30” rule which previously required race winners to be ranked 30th or higher in the championship standing to be eligible for the Round of 16 in the postseason.
  • Viewers of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum may have noticed the use of mufflers. The idea behind this change was to enhance the spectator experience by limiting excess auto noise. The muffler will also be used for the new Chicago street race.
  • In an effort to further protect its drivers, NASCAR will also require racers to wear approved underwear and clothing that meet specific flammable ratings.

But the most important aspect of any NASCAR season will remain unchanged: pulse-pounding excitement for fans all around the world. 

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