NASCAR Choose Rule

nascar Choose Rule

In a NASCAR race, the most important factor for winning is speed. However, there are other elements that can help give drivers an advantage. Depending on the race, some drivers can even choose the lane in which they restart. Read on below to learn all about the choose rule in NASCAR and how it affects driver strategy.

What Is the NASCAR Choose Rule?

In NASCAR, the choose rule allows higher-ranked drivers in each row to choose their lane during a restart. Though it might sound like this rule functions at the beginning of the race, it actually only comes into play with one lap to go before a restart. The choose rule is used at all NASCAR tracks except for road courses.

After a caution or a scheduled stage break, NASCAR races go back to green-flag racing with a rolling restart. During these restarts, the field lines up in rows of two, just like at the start of a race. Prior to each restart, drivers line up in a single file line in position order, then choose the top or bottom lane, depending on which one they believe will give them the advantage. The point before which drivers must choose their lane is marked on the track with a yellow painted V known as the choose cone. If drivers change lanes after choosing or fail to choose before the cone, they receive a position penalty.

Choose Rule Lineup Order

NASCAR race control uses this set of criteria to determine the order in which the drivers must line up before the choose rule process:

  1. Lead lap cars that did not pit
  2. Lead lap cars that pitted, as they return to the track
  3. Lap-down cars that did not pit
  4. Lap-down cars that pitted and those that pitted multiple times, as they return to the track
  5. Free pass car
  6. Wave-around cars
  7. Penalty cars
  8. Lay over cars

Choose Rule Strategy

The NASCAR choose rule introduces an element of strategy for both drivers in a row. The higher-ranked driver is able to choose whichever lane they believe will give them more grip or a greater advantage in moving up through the field. The preferred lane will change from track to track and even throughout a single race. Crew chiefs and spotters communicate with drivers to determine the optimal lane for each restart.

The lower-ranked driver can choose whether to follow the higher-ranked driver into the optimal lane or to take a spot in the other lane, potentially getting an opportunity to pass the higher-ranked driver. Both choices can be fruitful, depending on the restart, and the lower-ranked driver in a row must choose their lane carefully. 

NASCAR Choose Rule Summary

  • In NASCAR races at all oval tracks, including superspeedways and dirt tracks, drivers are allowed to choose their preferred lane during restarts.
  • Restarts occur after cautions and following the scheduled stage breaks.
  • The field lines up in position order in a single file, and drivers choose between the top or bottom lane, from first to last place.
  • A brightly colored V known as the choose cone is painted on the track, marking the point before which drivers must choose their lane.
  • If a driver’s tires touch the V mark, or they change lanes or position after choosing, they will be assessed a position penalty.
  • Cars on pit road when the choose process begins and cars being penalized are not eligible to choose their lane.
  • If the restart is waved off for weather or other reasons after the choose rule process has taken place, the choose order will be discarded. If the race is declared official or restarted later, the field will revert. Another choose rule process will take place upon a delayed restart.


How does the choose rule work?

According to the choose rule, higher-ranked NASCAR drivers in each row are allowed to choose which lane they want to be placed on for a restart. Applicable drivers will use this opportunity to choose the lane with the best grip or greater advantage over their competitors. This rule only goes into effect when there is one lap to go before a restart.

When did NASCAR start the choose rule?

The choose rule was officially implemented by NASCAR for the August 8, 2020 race weekend at Michigan Speedway. Since then, the choose rule was formally in effect for all NASCAR races (all three national series), excluding superspeedways and road courses. For 2023, the choose rule was also added at superspeedways and dirt tracks, making road courses the only tracks not implementing a choose rule.