Notebook: Restart zone doubled for Dover race

DOVER — NASCAR’s restarts are undergoing yet another change.

NASCAR doubled the restart zone at Dover International Speedway for today’s AAA 400 from 70 feet to 140 feet.

The change comes a week after NASCAR controversially penalized Brad Keselowski at New Hampshire for jumping the restart. The week before that, NASCAR reviewed a restart by Jeff Gordon at Chicago but did not end up penalizing Gordon.

The restart zones will also be extended at the rest of the tracks in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The changes seem to satisfy drivers, who have been unsure of NASCAR’s policing of the restart zones this season.

“To lengthen the box is a great move,” Jimmie Johnson said. “I am hopeful that they lengthen the box and bring it closer to the start-finish line. I think it will slow down some of three and four wide into turn one scenarios we have had.

“It will be less distance to get speed build up closer to the start-finish line and I think we will maybe control that space a little bit better. … The goal here is to give control back to the guy that has earned it, to the leader. That’s what happens and I am in favor of it. It’s a good call and I am excited to see how it plays out.”

The restart rules themselves are staying the same. Drivers will still line up double file, with the leader being the “control car,” meaning the second-place car can’t take off before the leader in the restart zone.

That zone though is just wider, which puts things back in the hands of the lead car.

“When you’re the leader, you want that advantage,” Kyle Busch said. “You’re the one that’s the leader. You’re the one that is in that position so you should have that advantage. With the restart zones and rules the way that they were, the leader was at the biggest disadvantage.”

Filling in

Driver Greg Biffle may be without his crew chief, Matt Puccia, for today’s race.

Puccia is with his wife, Alyssa, who gave birth to a daughter on Friday.

If Puccia doesn’t make it back in time, team manager Kevin Kidd will fill in as crew chief today. Biffle said it wouldn’t be the same without Puccia.

“One thing I already noticed is I pulled out on the track and I looked down and realized I hadn’t turned my gear fan on yet,” said Biffle. “He’s the guy that’s like ‘OK, I need your gear fan on,’ and things like that, so you miss stuff that you’re used to people doing when they’re not here.”

Practice speeds

Rain shortened both practice sessions on Saturday.

Kasey Kahne led the first practice session while Kevin Harvick was fastest in the final practice. The most laps the drivers were able to do in the second session was 18 which was Carl Edwards who was second fastest.

Rounding out the top-five in the second practice were Kahne, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Rain wiped out practice and qualifying on Friday.

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