Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ROOKIE STRIPE: 8 Things to Know about the 2017 NASCAR Season



Photo credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
by Logan Stewart

It’s February. That means it’s NASCAR time.

Some may still be languishing in football season’s end zone, but those who love the sport of NASCAR have their eyes on the road ahead. Like every year before it, the 2017 NASCAR season brings new changes and new faces to the sport, but the thunderous energy and smell of rubber on the road remain the same.

It’s going to be a wild ride, and here are eight things to know about the 2017 NASCAR season.

1. There’s a new brute in town. Monster Energy takes over as NASCAR’s title sponsor, beginning with the Daytona 500. According to Monster Energy, it has built its brand on racing and motorsports, so we’ll all be hoping for a serious jolt of exhilaration.

2. There’s a new points system. Races will now consist of three stages. Stages 1, 2 and the Final Stage will vary depending on the track and the length of the race. Read more about the new points system.

3. Dale Jr. returns. After missing half the 2016 season due to a concussion sustained at Michigan last June, the perennial fan favorite has finally received medical clearance to race again. Here is a fascinating read from ESPN about his recovery and private life.

Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
4. Concussions will be a bigger deal. Speaking of concussions, NASCAR is enforcing a consistent screening rule for concussions in 2017. If a driver is involved in a wreck that sends his or her car to the garage, he or she must report to the infield care center for a medical evaluation, where medical providers must use the SCAT-3 diagnostic tool to check for head injuries. This is different than the prior rule where a driver only had to go to the infield care center if the car was towed to the garage. Cue the serious headache for some drivers who are anxious to stay on the track in competition.

5. Carl Edwards is out. As in, stepping out of the racecar entirely. He walked away from a career that spans 20 years, with a year left on his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, citing personal reasons. His replacement, former Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity driver Daniel Suarez, dominated that series last year and will be one to watch in 2017.

Photo credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
6. Clint Bowyer is in. Bowyer officially takes the reins of the No. 14 Ford for Stewart Haas Racing, replacing now-retired Tony Stewart.

7. Stewart Haas Racing gets new wheels. They’re now racing Ford vehicles and building their own chassis. This change is a big one for the SHR empire which has long been aligned with Chevrolet. Why Ford? The team says it was a business decision, but this will be a year to see if Ford can rule the track.

8. Three rookies are in the running. Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon are all rookies planning to run the full Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Hats off to all of you "fan rookies" out there. Enjoy the season!

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