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No changes expected for restart zones in '16

NASCAR officials don't expect any changes in the way restart zones are policed this season, saying that they felt comfortable with the process that was put into place during the latter portion of 2015.

It will, however, be the first use of the new larger zones for the majority of the facilities.

Fourteen tracks hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season are expected to have the larger restart zones in place for the first time, including Daytona International Speedway, site of the season-opening Daytona 500 scheduled for Feb. 21.

Restart zones are located prior to the start/finish line and indicate where the race leader, or control car, is allowed to accelerate when the race is either beginning or coming out of a caution period.

Officials lengthened the zones last season at several tracks following complaints and concerns from competitors about the "gamesmanship" being played in the areas.

By extending the zone, the race leader enjoyed a larger window of opportunity to control the start or restart of the race and lessened the likelihood of another driver gaining an advantage.

Beginning with the opening race of last year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR stationed an official inside the track near the zone, and added a high definition camera to provide evidence should a start or restart be called into question.

Two weeks after that move, officials announced that restart zone areas would be expanded for the remaining Chase events, beginning at Dover International Speedway where the restart zone at the 1-mile facility was increased from 70 feet to 140 feet.

"The cameras that we did employ there (in the restart zones), those were monitored in the PRO System as well as up in the tower," Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck said. "We were pretty pleased towards the last part of the year with the (changes). In checking with the drivers, they felt it got to the point where it was a level playing field for everybody."

The rules concerning starts and restarts were not impacted by the changes. The race leader, or control car, still must maintain caution car speed and cannot exceed that speed before passing the double red lines that mark the beginning of the restart zone.

If the leader has not accelerated by the time he or she reaches the single red line, designating the end of the zone, the starter in the flagstand will start the race.

A driver other than the race leader can be the first to the start/finish line, as long as the initial pass did not occur within the restart zone.

The majority of the areas that were expanded last season were extended from the original area forward, toward the start/finish line. Buck said the only track to expand the zone back toward the fourth turn was Phoenix.

"If we had moved it (toward the start/finish line) at Phoenix, the drivers almost wouldn't be able to look out of the race car to see the green flag (wave)," Buck said.

"We'll physically go take a look at the race track, take a look at the logistics and see what makes sense. The majority of them, (extending) toward the start/finish line, doubling it, worked out very well so I expect that's what you'll see."

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