Revisiting the worst rule change in NASCAR history

NASCAR has introduced some crazy new rules over the years, but it will be hard to top the one they introduced for the 2016 season.
NASCAR Truck Series
NASCAR Truck Series / Brian Lawdermilk/GettyImages

NASCAR has been criticized many times over the years for various rule changes and format changes, and given how the sport is constantly evolving, there is no reason to believe that this won't continue.

Sometimes that criticism is justified, while other times, it seems that fans are just complaining for the sake of complaining. When you've been around the sport for long enough, you get to see the full scale of arguments.

And in 2016, that criticism was justified about as much as it has ever been.

NASCAR introduced a new rule known as the "caution clock".

This rule meant that a Truck Series race could not run under green flag conditions for more than 20 consecutive minutes.

If there were no legitimate caution periods during a 20-minute span, the yellow flag would fly, leading to a restart. The caution clock, which would be used at all tracks except for Eldora Speedway, would then be shut off with 20 laps remaining (or 10 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Pocono Raceway).

It basically guaranteed that each race would end in a shootout, all while creating more time for commercials, creating more meaningless caution flag periods throughout races, much like "phantom debris cautions", and reducing the number of green flag laps in each event, given the fact that laps run under caution do, in fact, count toward the race distance.

A total of 12 of the season's 23 races ended up seeing caution flag periods due to the clock expiring, and there were a grand total of 19 of these periods throughout the year.

Six races saw more than one, with one race at Texas Motor Speedway seeing a season-high three. That race interestingly had no legitimate caution flag periods.

Fortunately, this was a rule that was dropped after the 2016 season, and it was only ever tested in the Truck Series; it never appeared in the Xfinity Series or the Cup Series, and it ended up being one-and-done at NASCAR's third highest level.

With that being said, it did sort of morph into stage racing, which was introduced ahead of the 2017 season for all three national series.

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Stage racing, which also inherently guarantees multiple caution flags in each race, is set to enter its eighth year in 2024, and it continues to be one of the more controversial talking points as far as recent NASCAR rule changes.