NASCAR's race enhancements announced Monday detailed how and why races will be run in stages in 2017. Below are answers to some of the potential questions.
How many stages are in a race?
Three -- Stage 1, Stage 2 and the Final Stage. Stage 1 and Stage 2 will reward drivers who are leading, or in the top 10, at the conclusion of each stage. The Final Stage will determine the race winner.
What is Stage 1?
The green flag begins the race, and therefore Stage 1. Its length is approximately 25-30 percent of the event's total length -- it is different for each race, dependent on track size and race length -- with the ending marked via a stage checkered flag (the stage can end under caution, if necessary).
Who benefits most?
Drivers who are running first through 10th at the conclusion of Stage 1 will receive stage bonus points, starting with 10 points for first place, nine points for second place, down to one point for 10th place. Additionally, the driver who finishes Stage 1 first will receive one playoff point to carry into the postseason, should that driver qualify. Those can add up quickly over the course of a season.
What about Stage 2?
At the conclusion of Stage 1, there is a caution period for drivers to come down pit road (innovative strategies will be crucial under these enhancements.) Stage 2 will then begin with a drop of the green flag for the restart. Its length is approximately 25-30 percent of the event's total length -- it is different for each race, dependent on track size and race length -- with the ending marked via a stage checkered flag (the stage can end under caution, if necessary).
What about Stage 2 bonus points?
Same as Stage 1: Drivers who are running first through 10th at the conclusion of Stage 2 will receive stage bonus points, starting with 10 points for first place, nine points for second place, down to one point for 10th place. Additionally, the driver who finishes Stage 2 first will receive one playoff point to carry into the postseason.
What about the final stage?
Following another caution period, which gives fans another natural break in the action, the final stage begins with another green flag drop and restart. Drivers then race for the event win ... and the five bonus points that come with it.
How are points distributed?
The final stage produces the race results, so the end of the final stage is the end of the race. Whoever crosses the start/finish line first at the checkered flag is the race winner. Race points are then awarded to the entire field based on finishing order. The winner receives 40 points. Second place receives 35 points, third place receives 34 points, fourth place receives 33 points ... down to one point for drivers who finish 36th-40th. The maximum points a driver can earn in a race is 60 (40 for the race win plus 20 points for winning both stages).
There no longer will be a bonus point for leading a lap, or a bonus point for leading the most laps.
And the winner?
The race winner receives five bonus points toward the postseason (this is up from three last year under the new enhancements), plus postseason eligibility. If a driver leads at the end of both Stage 1 and Stage 2, and then wins the race, then he or she would receive seven bonus points to carry into the postseason.
For which series were these enhancements designed?
By rewarding hard racing through the duration of the season, will there be an official regular-season champion?
Yes, there formally will be a regular-season champion. That driver will earn 15 additional playoff points to carry into the postseason.
Any more bonus points for points standings at the end of the regular season?
Yes. In addition to the regular-season champion, drivers who finish in the top 10 of the regular season all receive some measure of playoff points to take into the postseason. Here's the breakdown:
First place in regular season points earns a driver 15 playoff bonus points in addition to the points earned with race or stage wins; second place earns 10 playoff points; third place, 8; fourth place, 7; fifth place, 6; sixth place, 5; seventh place, 4; eighth place, 3; ninth place, 2; 10th place, 1.
In this enhanced format, when is a race official?
At the conclusion of Stage 2.
How does the postseason work?
Once the postseason begins, points will be reset to 2,000 for the opening round, with each driver's accrued bonus points tacked onto that total. Four drivers still will be eliminated in each round of the postseason, setting up a final four in Miami for all three national series.
What is the tweak for playoff points?
Playoff points earned for race wins or for leading at the end of Stage 1 or Stage 2 now will carry over round-by-round if a driver continues advancing. It's not just for the first round any more. Additionally, drivers can build off and add to those bonus points.
So if a driver has 70 playoff points heading into the postseason, and then wins the playoff opener (five-point bonus), he or she would advance to the next round and carry 75 additional points -- or more, depending on his or her results over the next two races in the round.
Does winning a race in the postseason still automatically qualify that driver for the next round, regardless of points?
Yes. Winning trumps all.
Will bonus points still carry over to Miami?
No. Miami is the exception. All four drivers competing for the championship will start with the same amount of points. There will be no bonus points for this race for those final four drivers. First to the line wins the title.