Mapping the plan for future Chase drivers
January 30, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In announcing a historic and groundbreaking shift in championship format, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France repeatedly stressed his confidence and optimism that a winner-takes-all scenario will best resonate with fans and motivate teams.
According to the new system, 16 drivers will make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – all the regular season race winners (as long as the driver is in the top-30 in in points) and the regular season points leader (should that driver not have a victory). If more than 16 drivers have a win in the regular season, only those highest in the standings would advance to the Chase. If fewer than 16 drivers have a win in the regular season, the remaining Chase spots will be based on point standings.
The 10-race Chase will be divided into three three-race segments eliminating four drivers after each segment and leaving four to decide the title in the Homestead finale. But what happens to the Chase drivers once they have been eliminated?
"We've got a great suggestion on that in our driver‑owner meetings by Kevin Harvick, as a matter of fact, who talked about that," France explained. "We had it originally where if you fell out in the first round, you were going to finish no better than 13th. We changed that. So you'll run now really for fifth place."
Drivers who don’t advance to the next round will have their point totals reset to the Chase-start base of 2,000 points (with any regular-season wins bonus points), plus the additional points they’ve earned during the Chase. A regular season win is worth three bonus points.
This actually ensures more drivers in the championship picture while maintaining proper motivation for those eliminated to settle fifth through 16th place. The top-10 drivers are recognized at the year-end Awards Ceremony.
"Winning races is still important and that’s whether you’re inside the Chase or outside of it. .. for your sponsors, for prize money, for lots of reasons," France said.
And that’s the mindset NASCAR is betting fans will appreciate. It certainly has gotten rave reviews from inside the industry.
Speedway Motorsports Inc. President Marcus Smith called the new system, "probably the best thing to happen in NASCAR in the last 10 years and I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing how the increased incentive to win plays out on race day."