Choose Cone Option Gains Momentum and Support in NASCAR Garage (2023)

To solve one of NASCAR’s oldest problems, several drivers are endorsing the adoption of a popular procedure from their short track pasts:

The choose cone.

Kevin Harvick had a chance to win back-to-back Cup races at Darlington Raceway over the past week but was prevented from doing so purely out of random luck. He repeatedly restarted on the bottom lane, something akin to a death sentence at the South Carolina speedway, and lost positions every single time.

Martin Truex Jr. claimed he was "murdered" on restarts due to similar misfortunes.

At Darlington, the topside is the preferred groove, as it allows drivers to remain full throttle all the way to the corner without having to lift in order to cut the apex. That is especially true with a low horsepower rules package that has the car taking longer to regain momentum after jumping off the throttle due to the horsepower-sapping tapered spacer.

If only there were a rule that permitted drivers to choose which lane they restart in during double-file restart.

The choose cone.

The choose rule, often represented by a cone, is a procedure primarily used on dirt tracks and short tracks across the country that allows a driver to choose either the inside or outside lane as they cross the start-finish line.

As drivers take the one to go signal, they choose in order of their running position which lane to restart in. More often than not, the first handful of contenders would choose the preferred lane, but drivers further back would have the choice to start closer to the front in exchange for the risk of starting in the disadvantageous lane.

Essentially, it’s a strategy play that also mixes up the running order as slower cars will be able to essentially bypass faster cars, at least for the moments immediately after the restart.

"Probably had a top-three car and finished 10th because of inside restarts every single time," Truex said on Friday during a Zoom press conference. "That was frustrating. I would definitely be for (the choose cone). I think it’s a good option. I think it works well on the short tracks where they do it. I think with this rules package that we have at bigger tracks it would be something that as drivers we would all be interested in."

The topic came up as recently as 2017 for the short track races at Martinsville and Bristol after drivers began slamming on brakes after their pit stops in order to manipulate the order off pit road in their favor.

Both Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin were in favor of the choose cone then, and nothing has changed now, especially with the current rules package that emphasizes restarts over longer runs.

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It’s time for a choose cone. @TooToughToTame is the perfect place to try it. The bottom is at a disadvantage this will create drama and allow us to decide our fate. Paint something on the track before the start finish line. One to go we choose our destiny.

— Austin Dillon (@austindillon3) May 21, 2020

Dillon expounded on his argument during his own Friday media teleconference.

"As a sport we’re always changing," Dillon said. "We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.

"The choose cone is something that is utilized throughout short tracks in America. Dirt track, asphalt, you name it. You see it on a weekly basis at places that, heck, when I was Legends car racing at 14 with no radios, you could figure out how to make the choose cone work. You just chose and that was your line you had to make. This puts it in the driver’s hands. It kind of allows us to decide our fate when it comes down to restarts."

Dillon also believes it eliminates the aforementioned games on pit road.

"It takes out pit crew’s fast stops," Dillon said. "Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do."

Choose Cone Option Gains Momentum and Support in NASCAR Garage (2)

NASCAR officials publicly admitted that they considered adding a choose cone back in 2017 and 2018, but nothing came out of the deliberations.

Some of the initial pushback against the idea is that NASCAR would complicate the rules or drivers wouldn’t understand how to implement, silly considering the ease of the procedure.

"We’ve been able to bring our sport back through a pandemic, I think we can make a choose rule work," Dillon said. "It’s not that complicated in my eyes."

That was a sentiment shared by Joey Logano as well.

"I would love to have that in our sport," Logano said. "I think most of us have ran races with the choose rule or put the cone out there at some point in our careers. I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out."

Choose Cone Option Gains Momentum and Support in NASCAR Garage (3)

Logano says he has brought the topic to NASCAR’s attention several times over the course of the past several seasons as well, especially once drivers started slamming on brakes on pit road.

"One, that’s not real safe," Logano said. "But, two, you try to line yourself up sixth and then the car in front of you gets a speeding penalty and you’re like, 'I gave up a spot and now I’m on the bottom too. I really blew it.'

"That happens out there so many times that everybody is trying to play the game, so just put a cone out there and say, 'Go left or right.' Where you go is where you restart ... It’s an easy thing to do."

One of those Summer Shootout kids Logano watched over the past half-decade was actually current Cup Series youngster William Byron, yet another advocate of the choose cone.

"Especially with how critical restarts are with this package, just the sheer track position that you can gain or lose in one restart alone is pretty huge and how close the field is," Byron said. "I think the top 10-12 cars are typically, reasonably the same or close pace to each other.

"I think a choose cone would allow you to have some different options to be able to make a run and let’s say you lose track position on a pit stop or whatever. You can get that back."

Choose Cone Option Gains Momentum and Support in NASCAR Garage (4)

Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is a former dirt racer turned motorsports journalist. He can typically be found perched on a concrete wall at a local short track on Saturday nights and within world-class media centers on Sunday afternoons. There isn’t any kind of racing he hasn’t covered over the past decade. He drives a 2003 Chevrolet Silverado with over 400,000 miles on it; despite carrying him to racing trips across both coasts and two countries, it hasn’t died yet. He also has a cat, Gotenks, who is named after a Japanese cartoon character.

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