Amending damaged vehicle policy could be crucial in Darlington

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DARLINGTON, SC — NASCAR’s decision to extend the time teams can work on their car under the Cup’s Damaged Vehicle Policy from six minutes to 10 could have an impact as early as Sunday at Darlington Raceway.

With the points as close as they are among playoff contenders — nine points separate fifth from 16th entering Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on USA Network) — any position that can be won by being able to come back to racing instead of being knocked out can be key for teams.

“It’s not the difference between competing for a win and not competing for a win, but (it’s the difference of) parking with something that could easily be fixed,” said Adam Stevens, chief executive. Christopher Bell’s team, at NBC Sports.

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Drew Blickensderfer, Aric Almirola’s crew chief, said the extra time will be invaluable in repairing damaged toe links.

“A lot of times when you bend a toe link, it’s difficult to get the bolt out to replace it,” Blickensderfer told NBC Sports. “So you spend three minutes removing the old bolts and you don’t have time to put in a new one.

“I think they want to give you the opportunity to replace a toe tie on pit road. We’ve seen issues with teams getting kicked out (by) the DVP because it took too long to change a toe link, and I think the 10 minutes will basically get you to change your toe link.

Chase Elliott was eliminated due to police damaged vehicles in this year’s Coca-Cola 600 and placed 33rd. Team manager Alan Gustafson said the extra four minutes would come in handy in a situation like his team’s in this race.

“I think Charlotte would be the best example,” Gustafson said. “We had minor damage. We had a tie rod that was bent. The bolt was twisted in the bracket and we didn’t get it out in time. I think in these situations you will at least have the opportunity to make these repairs and get back in the race.

“I don’t know if in extreme situations it will make a big difference, but I think in some situations (it will help). That’s the best example I have. You have a car that has practically no no damage, being out of the race is probably not the best thing in the world. That was their point to rectify that. It’s not going to encompass all cases, but it certainly opens up opportunities.”

The damaged vehicle policy debuted ahead of the 2017 season as a safety measure to prevent cars that had been significantly damaged from returning to the track. Teams originally had five minutes for repairs. NASCAR extended the time to six minutes before the 2018 season with the reduction in the number of crew members over the wall.

NASCAR announced this week that teams will now have a maximum of 10 minutes to make repairs on pit road after contact on the track. Time starts once the car enters the pit lane and the clock does not stop until the car crosses the pit exit line. The car has three laps to do the minimum speed or is removed from the event.

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