The shot-clock era is coming to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
NASCAR announced plenty of changes Tuesday during its annual kickoff to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, but the superlative for "Most Innovative" or "Most Unique" may go to the advent of a Caution Clock for the truck series this year. It's the latest wrinkle in an already intriguing 2016 season, which will feature a Chase playoff format for the first time.
Starting with the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 19, Camping World Truck Series races will use a 20-minute timer that begins counting down at the start of each green-flag run. If no caution period occurs before the 20-minute limit elapses, the yellow flag will fly, giving teams the opportunity to make pit stops and adjustments under caution.
The rules change will have variations at a handful of tracks. At most tracks, the Caution Clock will be turned off with 20 laps to go. The exceptions are events held at the longer layouts of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Pocono Raceway, where the Caution Clock will be discontinued with 10 laps remaining. The Caution Clock will also not be used at Eldora Speedway, where the series' annual race on dirt has traditionally been broken into three segments.
It's another big format change that promises to break up longer runs in a series that's become a proving ground for young talent.
"Why is it important for us? We think it's going to add to the strategy during the race," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. "If you look at the Camping World Truck Series, that is an area where some of our younger drivers, our newer teams really can use the competition caution to be able to adjust on the truck.
"We've seen that in the (Sprint) Cup Series when we've had a competition caution early in the race. It's allowed teams to make some last-minute adjustments in the race. We think that's going to be huge for the teams in the trucks throughout the race."
RELATED: Five young drivers to watch in NCWTS
The rules change takes come cues from basketball, with its shot clocks and regularly scheduled TV timeouts. But it also makes a slight nod toward the trucks series' infancy, when shorter races used a halftime break.
While contrarians could argue that the natural flow of races might be disrupted by competition cautions at 20-minute intervals, Elton Sawyer -- the truck series' managing director -- said the rules change has a groundswell of industry support.
"Actually, all the stakeholders, the teams, the broadcast partners were very receptive," Sawyer said. "A lot of input went into it, a lot of energy behind the scenes. ... Again, I just think it's another level of excitement, another level of strategy and something our fans at the race track and the ones that are home are going to be tuned into."
The truck series also will institute a seven-race Chase postseason format, culling a field of eight title-eligible drivers with two stages of eliminations before the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18.
The field, filled by race winners or the highest point-earners in the 16-race regular season, will cut from eight drivers to six after the first three-race stage, then six to four after the final three-race series ahead of the season-ending event. Additionally, drivers who made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs in 2015 will not be permitted to compete in the truck series' championship race at Homestead.
While the postseason format mimics the system now used across all three national series, the truck tour now has its own unique facet in the Caution Clock. NASCAR officials said the change wasn't implemented solely as a trial balloon for use in other series, but didn't rule out expanding its reach if it achieves a positive reception in 2016.
"All these changes are really fundamentally with an eye on providing a more exciting product," said Scott Miller, NASCAR's new Senior Vice President of Competition. "We'll always look at concepts, and if it looks like it works well and it's something that we think would carry over into another series, we'll always keep that in the back of our minds."