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The first change, which will be evident at Daytona’s famous track this weekend, is the relaxation of a rule that now will allow drivers to “bump-draft,” which is the practice of not only riding in the draft of the car ahead of it to face reduced wind resistance, but then to bump the car to maintain momentum - sometimes at the peril of the lead car.

The other change throughout the schedule will be the increase in horsepower, which will allow cars to run faster and potentially lead to more crashes.

After the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in the 2001 Daytona 500, NASCAR had worked hard to improve safety in the sport, and while the popularity of stock car racing surged in the middle of the decade, an overall decline has caused NASCAR’s leadership to return to a bit of the grass roots of the sport and the adage, “If you ain’t rubbin’, you ain’t racin’.”

NASCAR explained its changes last month at a media tour.

“We will put it back in the hands of drivers, and we will say, ‘Boys, have at it and have a good time,’ ” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition.

After coming down hard on drivers who took part in confrontation on the track, NASCAR Chairman Brian France promised to “loosen it up.”

“It doesn’t mean that you get a [get-out-of-jail free] card,” he said of the relaxation of the rules. “But it certainly means that what we are encouraging the competitors … for their character and their personality, within reason, to be unfolded.”

With a return to the old days, owners hope that NASCAR can regain some of the spark that helped it become a major player in the American sports scene in the first part of the 21st century.

“I am probably as excited about the future of racing as I have ever been,” former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told BusinessWeek. Mr. Gibbs runs Joe Gibbs Racing. “I can honestly say that everybody is pointed in the right direction, and we want this sport, we want it to bounce back and come roaring back - and we will.”