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2019 rules updates: Tweaked Xfinity starting field, owner title formats

NASCAR competition officials announced rules changes Thursday for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next season, including reducing the Xfinity Series field from 40 to 38 cars.

The competition department also announced details about the 2019 Xfinity Series’ Dash 4 Cash program, plus updated guidelines for the owners’ championship format and the awarding of past champion’s provisional berths for both national series.

Starting in 2019, the Xfinity Series field for each race will consist of 33 starting positions based on qualifying speed, four provisional positions according to the rule book and one past champion’s provisional. Purse money that previously was awarded to the 39th and 40th finishers will be redistributed through the field.

RELATED: 2019 Dash 4 Cash info

“I think the main reason we’re making these changes is for a stronger field with greater competition,” said John Bobo, NASCAR vice president of racing operations. “We want to provide the best racing in the world for our fans and we have to monitor and make changes when needed. I think one of the great things that we did in looking at these changes is we worked really collaboratively with the teams, the drivers and the tracks to really just provide the strongest race product from all sides of the garage.”

The Dash 4 Cash initiative will return to the same four race tracks in 2019: Bristol (April 6), Richmond (April 12), Talladega (April 27) and Dover (May 4). The same driver participation rules will be in place, restricting Monster Energy Series drivers from Dash 4 Cash events to showcase the series’ regulars.

The same objective will be at work in the owners’ championship format next year in both the Xfinity Series and Truck Series, which will be renamed the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019. Owners in both series will only earn postseason benefits — playoff points or automatic playoff berths by virtue of wins — in the owners’ standings if the driver earns championship points in their respective series. The move is meant to create incentives for organizations competing for the owner title to field series regulars.

“It’s important to know that we didn’t discourage that the other way,” Bobo said. “We want teams and owners to hire drivers from lower series and give them an opportunity in the higher series. …

“When we got our driver participation rules this last season, I think we felt it was a pretty good mix, but we continue to look at that and creating the type of balance that we need, so we’re really curious to see how this rule impacts that, and we’ll be really curious to see what it does. But we also think that it presents something really important, which is as we go into the playoffs, we don’t want an Xfinity team owner or a Truck team owner to hire Cup drivers to come in and win them additional points for the playoffs.”

Bobo also provided a timetable for any further announcements regarding Monster Energy Series drivers and their participation guidelines in lower series for 2019. The number of allowable Xfinity and Truck Series races for championship-eligible Monster Energy Series veterans has shrunk the last two seasons, including a full restriction in the playoffs for those two series.

“I think we’ll be coming out with that announcement shortly,” Bobo said. “I think this is a topic that our role as a sanctioning body is always to create balance in the field and also produce the best racing possible for the fans, and I think that we’ve had a hell of a season so far. The racing has just been fantastic. That’s a long way of saying we’re going to continue to look at this and even after we announce it, any rule change for 2019, we’ll continue looking at it.”

Competition officials also released 2019 rules regarding eligibility for past champion’s provisional berths. In the Xfinity Series, owner and current or former series champion drivers are eligible once every eight qualifying attempts for a maximum of four provisional berths that season. In the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, the eligibility is once every five qualifying attempts, also for a maximum of four provisional opportunities per season.