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2013 NASCAR Preview: Changes for the NASCAR Season

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

Taylor covers NASCAR for RotoWire. He is a three-time winner of the FSWA's Racing Writer of the Year award. He is also a military historian, specifically the World War II U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

Before we can make out our cheatsheets or prepare our draft strategies for the 2013 NASCAR season, there are many changes that we need to take into account to be prepared for any fantasy racing league. Let's take an in-depth look at some of the changes we'll see this year and some that aren't so apparent when the engines fire up at Daytona in February.

DRIVER CHANGES

Thanks to the usual silly season movement and free-agent driver signings, we have several drivers who have moved to new teams in 2013. A handful of teams are shutting down and some are starting new. A few teams have merged or contracted to stay competitive. Also, a handful of driver/team swaps took place; among the most notable are the Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano moves.

DRIVERNEW TEAMOLD TEAM
Elliott SadlerNo. NA Joe Gibbs RacingNo. 2 Nationwide Series
Sam Hornish Jr.No. 12 Penske RacingNo. 22 Penske Racing
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.No.17 Roush Fenway RacingNo. 6 Nationwide Series
Matt KensethNo. 20 Joe Gibbs RacingNo. 17 Roush Fenway Racing
Joey LoganoNo. 22 Penske RacingNo. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing
A.J. AllmendingerNo.51 Phoenix RacingNo. 22 Penske Racing
Kurt BuschNo. 78 Furniture Row RacingNo. 51 Phoenix Racing

QUALIFYING CHANGES & RULES CHANGES

NASCAR announced a number of competition changes for the 2013 season, highlighted by a new qualifying format in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that places a greater emphasis on speed.

Qualifying Format

In NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, the series will move to a 36-6-1 format in which the fastest 36 cars will make the race on speed. The next six highest ranking cars in owners points will also make the field. The final starting position will be awarded to the most recent eligible past champion driver. If there is no eligible past champion driver, then a seventh car will make the field based upon owners' points. Provisional positions in the 36-6-1 format will be lined up by owners' points, not speed.

Qualifying order for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events will return to a random draw. However, in the event qualifying is canceled due to rain, the field will be set per the rule book and the starting lineup will continue to be determined by practice speeds.

Provisional positions in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series will be based upon the previous year's owner points for the first three races, as opposed to the first five races in previous years for the Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series, and four races for the Camping World Truck Series.

Testing Policy

For Sprint Cup races, there will be up to four tests per organization available at tracks at which the series competes. Since 2009, teams could only test at tracks that did not hold NASCAR national series events. For the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, starting in 2013, there will be up to two tests per organization at tracks where those series compete. If the organization has an official Sunoco Rookie of Year candidate, then that team will receive one additional test. Additionally, NASCAR will open track activity early for extended practice at two additional events per series, to be determined.

Maximum Field for Nationwide Series

To strengthen the ownership base and create urgency among teams to make races, the maximum starting field for the NASCAR Nationwide Series will be set at 40, as opposed to the 43-car field in previous years. A maximum NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starting field will remain at 43 cars while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will hold steady at 36.

NEUROLOGICAL TESTS

According to ESPN.com, NASCAR will consider making neurological baseline testing a part of drivers' preseason physicals, just as the IndyCar Series and other contact sports do. For former Sprint Cup driver Steve Park, it can't come soon enough. Park suffered a massive brain injury in a 2001 Nationwide Series crash at Darlington. He took the ImPACT baseline test in 2003 on the recommendation of NASCAR physician Dr. Jerry Petty after suffering a second concussion. Because Park never had a test prior to that for comparison, there was no way to determine the full extent of his injury. NASCAR does not perform baseline testing as a regular part of its preseason physical but plans to consult with its medical staff to see if it should be added after what has happened to its most popular driver. The test gives physicians a starting point to determine if there is a loss of function after a head injury. It enables them to determine if a concussion has occurred and the severity of it. The test takes about 22 minutes the first time and a little less in future uses. It measures memory, reaction time, mental speed, information processing, anticipation time and other functions of the brain affected by concussions.

NEW SPRINT CUP CAR

The 2013 season will mark the introduction of the sixth generation NASCAR stock car. At the heart of the new car is a desire to see more competitive racing by cars that closely resemble their showroom counterparts. Here are some of the key changes fans will notice:

Increased manufacturer brand identity with the car looking more like those on the showroom floor
The "greenhouse" area is the same on every car
Longer nose and shorter tail to mimic street cars
Carbon fiber hood and deck lid
Sponsor logos will be allowed on roofs for more television exposure
The driver's last name will be placed on the windshield so fans can better identify drivers in an era when paint schemes change frequently

TRUCK SERIES AGE CHANGE

The minimum age for drivers in the Camping World Truck Series will be dropped from 18 to 16 for road courses and any tracks 1.1 mile or less.

MANUFACTURE CHANGE

When the new 2013 models roll out at Daytona this February, one thing will be quite noticeable. The lack of a Dodge entry. After claiming the championship in 2012 with Penske Racing and Brad Keselowski, Penske did not renew its contract with Dodge midseason. That left Dodge in limbo, and it decided to suspend activities. Dodge might return someday, but with the new cars this season it didn't make sense for Dodge to return without its anchor team, Penske.

SCHEDULE CHANGES

NASCAR made only one change to the 2013 Sprint Cup Series Schedule for this year. We still maintain the basic 36-event schedule, but there has been one date shift that occurs in the Chase for the Cup. Here are the details for the schedule change this upcoming season:

The fourth race of the Chase (30th overall) has changed from Kansas Speedway to Talladega Super Speedway. Kansas has moved to the spot formerly held by Talladega, which is the sixth race of the Chase (32nd overall).

The move puts the highly dangerous, lone superspeedway event of the Chase lineup earlier in the schedule by two weeks. The swap shouldn't have much impact on the outcome of the coming season's championship, and only moves "separation Sunday" up in the schedule.