NASCAR will allow drivers to "have at it" during February's Daytona 500.
The sanctioning body will eliminate the no-bumping rule at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, a move widely applauded to help return stock car racing back to its rough-and-tumble roots, NASCAR vice president for competition Robin Pemberton said Thursday.
By telling drivers they can "have at it," Pemberton made official a change that's been expected for weeks.
"It's time for us to allow the drivers to drive," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "We don't want the rules and regulations to get in the way of great racing and fantastic finishes.
"NASCAR is a contact sport. Our sport is based on banging fenders."
The sanctioning body outlawed the practice of ramming a lead car from behind in the turns to generate more speed at Daytona and Talladega, the only tracks that require the use of a speed-reducing restrictor plate for safety reasons.
Drivers insisted the no bump-drafting zones kept them from making passes.
The Sprint Cup Series also said it quickly will do away with the rear wing and replace it with the traditional spoiler, probably as soon as the second month of the season.
That move was to enhance competition, too, Pemberton said.
Also, the size of the holes in restrictor plates will be increased at Daytona to give drivers more speed and throttle response to make passes.
NASCAR considered the elimination of the yellow out-of-bounds line that separates the banking from the apron at Daytona and Talladega, but decided to keep it in play. That will keep drivers from driving off the race course to make passes.
Overall, everyone seemed to be happy with the changes, and NASCAR's continued move makes racing more about the driver than a space-aged car and rules.
"I don't like to go down the corner, turn the wheel, find out how great my engineers are or aren't," Carl Edwards said. "That's not what I want to do in a race car. I want to go drive."
Robin Braig and Ricky Humphrey, track presidents at Daytona and Talladega, respectively, love the prospects of a no holds barred race.
"We applaud NASCAR for listening to the race fans," Braig said.
"NASCAR's decision to put the race back in the hands of the drivers is sure to have a positive impact on the competition and excitement race fans experience at Talladega Superspeedway," Humphrey said.
Pemberton said drivers will have to police themselves on the track.
Now that everyone knows paybacks are probable and allowable, bump-drafting should be under control.
"It will be like going to a race about 10 years ago, I guess," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "They didn't have any of them rules then; we didn't see anything too crazy."
Clint Bowyer said the fact NASCAR listened to the criticism of a year ago with the rules and the Car of Tomorrow is a good step toward winning back fans that lost interest a year ago. Attendance and television ratings were down more than 10 percent a year ago.
"Our fans are not happy, you got to do something to cater to our fans," Bowyer said. "Without them we can't do what we do."
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.