New rules a learning experience for Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson at Daytona

The Clash at Daytona, NASCAR’s season-opening exhibition race for the Monster Energy Cup Series, serves as a chance for drivers and teams to knock the rust off.

But this year, it was an initial test for new rules the sanctioning body put in place during the offseason.

Seven-time and defending champion Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson were the first to test out the new rules.

Busch retired early from last Sunday’s race after Johnson got loose off of Turn 4, making contact with the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, which sent him nose-first into the wall.

After being treated and released from the infield care center, Busch applauded NASCAR’s concussion protocol and safety enhancements.

“There was an individual that met me out by the car and rode with me in the ambulance. I met with the doctors and just went through sequences to check all the different vitals, and then we were released,” said Busch. “Just a little bit of an upgrade. You can tell they’ve made an effort and it’s nice to have that security.”

Johnson was the next driver to test out the same protocol after crashing out of the Clash, failing to finish the exhibition race for the sixth consecutive year.

But Johnson wasn’t clear on whether or not he actually went through the concussion process.

“Maybe I did the protocol in there, I’m not really sure,” Johnson said. “They just evaluated me. It just seemed like a normal routine, so I don’t think I was in question to really go into the protocol. I will find out, I guess, at some point.”

As for Larson, his issue stemmed from a technicality.

Following a minor crash, Larson and the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team was forced to exit the race with 14 laps remaining after receiving a penalty for too many men over the wall during repair efforts on pit road.

NASCAR’s new damaged vehicle policy states that if a pit-road penalty is issued during the five-minute period teams are now given to make repairs on pit road, they are forced to retire from the race.

Larson was frustrated because he was under the impression the rule wouldn’t go into effect until after the Clash.

“I think once everyone gets used to it, it’ll probably be fine,” said Larson in the garage. “It was a little confusing. We didn’t think all the rules applied in this race because in the drivers’ meeting, the way the made it sound like to the rest of us, none of these crash damage rules would apply until the 500.

“I guess that’s why we had too many men over the wall because we didn’t know it was a rule.”

Judging by reactions from the three drivers, NASCAR’s latest rules changes will take some getting used to and will definitely play a major factor throughout the 2017 season.