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What has changed since Martinsville last fall?

Last fall’s NASCAR race weekend at Martinsville Speedway was hard to forget for a multitude of reasons and, with it, came a multitude of changes.

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, alone, a driver bumped their teammate out of a Championship Four spot and a driver punched another driver on pit road.

Then, in the NASCAR Cup Series, a race with a handful of lead changes ended with an intense Championship Four capped off by Ross Chastain’s memorable “Hail Melon” move.

While it was a notable weekend, it prompted several changes.

Most notably, Chastain’s memorable move isn’t possible anymore.

NASCAR will penalize any similar attempts with a time penalty under rule The rule states “any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk… are treated with the highest degree of seriousness.”

The NASCAR Cup Series cars will have 30% less downforce on them than last fall. That’s because of a 2-inch spoiler and the removal of three diffuser strakes and engine panel strakes.

The Cup Series ran the package at Phoenix, COTA and Richmond. The series will run it again at the Charlotte Roval, the Chicago Street Course, the Indianapolis Road Course, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Sonoma and Watkins Glen; and again at Richmond in August, Martinsville in October and Phoenix in November.

The lower-downforce package may create closer racing and, subsequently, more bumping and banging among drivers.

However, after multiple confrontations following hard racing at Martinsville last year, NASCAR set stricter penalties for various incidents.

Any kind of confrontation with physical violence, such as punches thrown or “significant threats and/or abuse and/or endangerment” is now punishable by a fine and/or indefine suspension or membership revocation.

Last year, NASCAR deemed those actions could result in a loss of 25-50 driver and/or owner points. They also deemed it could warrant a fine, as well as possible race suspenion(s), indefinite suspension or termination.

NASCAR now views physical confrontation as punishable in the same way as selling single-event credentials or violating the gambling policy.

Under these terms, Austin Hill could’ve faced an indefinite suspension for punching Myatt Snider in the face on pit road.

Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

NASCAR will also more severely punish pit road incidents where a car intentionally damages another car. The rulebook calls for a loss of 25-50 driver and/or owner points and/or a fine. It also calls for a possible race suspension(s), indefinite suspension or termination.

Last year, NASCAR could punish any type of pit road incident with just a fine.

NASCAR will penalize a driver for wrecking or spinning another vehicle in a similar way. It isn’t just intentional wrecks and even if the other vehicle isn’t taken out of the race.

NASCAR now has more jurisdiction in wrecks such as Ty Gibbs wrecking Brandon Jones last fall. Gibbs wrecked Jones out of the lead late and took him out of the championship fight.

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – APRIL 14: Zane Smith, driver of the #38 Long John Silver’s Ford, Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Zariz Transport Chevrolet, and Ben Rhodes, driver of the #99 Campers Inn RV Ford, lead the field to start the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Long John Silver’s 200 at Martinsville Speedway on April 14, 2023 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Should rain hit, wet weather tires are available for the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series to race with. The tires are available to race with after crews mostly dry the track.

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