Skip to content

Breaking down the new changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup

Jan 30, 2014, 3:34 PM EST

Chase for the sprint cup logo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In one of the biggest changes of his 11-year administration, NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France on Thursday announced a new format to the Chase for the Sprint Cup designed to further emphasize winning and enhance fan excitement – and potentially create a vibe that sells more tickets and increases TV ratings in the process.

The new format “is as simple as it gets,” France said during a roughly 20-minute presentation to the press on the final day of the NASCAR Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center.

“We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish-line showdown race – all of which is exactly what fans want,” France said. “The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be thrilling, easy to understand and help drive our sport’s competition to a whole new level.”

Here’s a breakdown on how the new format shakes out:

1) The Chase field will increase in size from 12 to 16 drivers. There will no longer be two wild card entries that make the Chase.

2) A win in the first 26 races all but guarantees a driver a berth in the 10-race Chase.

3) The top 15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races earn an automatic berth in what is being called the NASCAR Chase Grid – provided they leave Richmond, the 26th race, in the top 30 in points and have attempted to qualify for every race up to that point on the schedule.

4) If there are 16 or more different winners in the first 26 races, the only winless driver who can earn a berth would be the points leader after Richmond. For example, if Jeff Gordon goes through the first 26 races without a win but is the points leader after Richmond, he would be the only winless driver to qualify for the Chase.

5) If there are fewer than 16 race winners in the first 26 races, the 16-driver Chase field would be filled out with winless drivers with the most points following the first 26 races.

6) The points will be reset to 2,000 after the 16-driver Chase field is finalized following the September race at Richmond.

7) In perhaps the biggest key difference of the new format, the lowest-ranked four drivers (13th through 16th place) after the first three races will be eliminated from further advancement in the Chase, leaving 12 drivers. There will be a second round of elimination of the next-lowest four drivers (9th through 12th place) after the sixth race of the Chase, and a third round of elimination of the lowest four of the eight (5th through 8th place) remaining championship-eligible drivers after the ninth race. That sets up the biggest battle of the season, a four-driver winner-take-all race in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

8) The first three races of the Chase will be known as the Challenger Round (races 27-29). The fourth through sixth races of the Chase will be known as the Contender Round (races 30-32). The seventh through ninth races of the Chase will be known as the Eliminator Round (races 33-35). The final race will be known simply as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship (race 36).

9) Any driver that wins a race in the first three Chase races (the Challenger Round) automatically advances to the next round. Likewise, a driver that wins a race in the second round (Contender Round) advances to the third round, and a third-round (Eliminator Round) race winner advances to the four-driver final round (Sprint Cup Championship).

10) If one of the final four drivers wins the season finale at Homestead, he/she is the champion. Otherwise, the highest-finishing driver in the race would then win the championship. One other note about the season-ending race: there will be NO bonus points for laps led. All four drivers will start the race tied in points, with the highest finisher being crowned champion.

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Remembering iconic motorsports PR great Denny Darnell

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:21 PM EST

    Denny Darnell (far left), with wife Jean, and Cyndee and Jerry Bonkowski. Denny Darnell (far left), with wife Jean, and Cyndee and Jerry Bonkowski.

    The world of motorsports — particularly NASCAR and NHRA — is mourning arguably the best public relations person it has ever seen, Denny Darnell, who passed away Saturday.

  2. Indy USF2000 winner Will Owen moves to Juncos Racing, Pro Mazda Series in 2015

    Nov 22, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    (Photo courtesy Juncos Racing) (Photo courtesy Juncos Racing)

    Will Owen, who impressively won the 2014 USF2000 race as a rookie at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past May, is moving up the racing ladder.

  3. Marco Andretti, Will Power, AJ Allmendinger go back to roots in big karting race this weekend in Las Vegas

    Nov 22, 2014, 5:15 PM EST

    superkarts usa

    Marco Andretti, reigning IndyCar champ Will Power and NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger, are all going back to their racing roots this weekend in Las Vegas, taking part in one of the biggest karting events of the season.

  4. Luke Lambert, Ryan Newman’s crew chief, named ‘Problem Solver of the Year’; earns $100k prize

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:45 PM EST

    Ryan Newman, left, team owner Richard Childress and crew chief Luke Lambert together at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Luke, Lambert, crew chief for Ryan Newman, has been named Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ “Problem Solver of the Year.” And with it comes a $100,000 prize that he’ll receive Dec. 4 in Las Vegas.

  5. Former F1 driver Mark Webber talks Hamilton-Rosberg title battle (VIDEO)

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Race Getty Images

    The former Grand Prix regular and current sports car racer chats with NBCSN’s Will Buxton in Abu Dhabi.

  6. Force India owner Vijay Mallya comes out firing against Red Bull on Twitter

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:50 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Mallya attacks Red Bull following its double exclusion from today’s qualifying session in Abu Dhabi.

  7. Formula E Notes: Lucas di Grassi keeps points lead; Nick Heidfeld excluded from Putrajaya ePrix

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    Formula E Championship - Putrajaya Getty Images

    di Grassi climbs from 18th on the grid to second at finish in Putrajaya ePrix; Nick Heidfeld found to have made pit stop car change outside permitted area, relegated to 19th.

  8. Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

    Nov 22, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    The stage is set for the final showdown on Sunday. Will it be Lewis or Nico?

  9. GP2: Vandoorne claims fourth win of 2014 in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:45 PM EST

    © GP2 Media Service © GP2 Media Service

    McLaren junior driver moves up to second in the championship with feature race win in Abu Dhabi.

  10. IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay, partners give $2.5 million to new Cleveland Clinic cancer center

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Day 2 Getty Images

    The new cancer center’s lobby will be named in honor of RHR’s late mother, who succumbed to colon cancer in 2009.

  11. Stevens impresses in maiden F1 qualifying outing

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRACTICE Getty Images

    The British F1 debutant will start his first grand prix from 17th place tomorrow.

  12. Jeremy Mayfield continues racing comeback this weekend in Myrtle Beach

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:58 PM EST

    Jeremy Mayfield, shown in one of his last Sprint Cup races, at Texas, in 2009. He was suspended by the sanctioning body a few weeks later for failing a drug test. (File photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    He remains suspended by NASCAR, but Jeremy Mayfield continues his racing comeback this weekend at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

  13. Red Bull drivers excluded from qualifying in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Ricciardo and Vettel to start from the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi.

  14. Button ready to enjoy what could be his final grand prix

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying Getty Images

    With his family and friends in Abu Dhabi, Button is simply enjoying the moment.

  15. McLaren likely to keep Vandoorne in GP2 next year

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic

    The 22-year-old is not set to move up to F1 despite an incredible rookie season in GP2.

  16. Bottas and Williams cast in Abu Dhabi spoiler role from second row

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:15 AM EST

    BottasADp3 Getty Images

    Valtteri Bottas and Williams best of the rest once again in Abu Dhabi qualifying.

  17. O’Connell confident Caterham can find a buyer

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Practice Getty Images

    The administrator put in charge of the ailing F1 team believes that a buyer can be found in the next couple of weeks.

  18. Vettel frustrated to have Ferrari test blocked by Red Bull

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRESSER Getty Images

    “The technical people were panicking a little bit, being afraid that I would take some secrets.”

  19. Force India confirms Sergio Perez on multi-year deal

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:13 AM EST

    Sergio Perez AP

    The Mexican driver will remain with Force India for 2015 alongside Nico Hulkenberg.

Video from NASCAR America

Most unexpected event of 2014?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Johnson (1918)
  2. J. Gordon (1897)
  3. J. Logano (1793)
  4. D. Hamlin (1772)
  5. K. Harvick (1716)
  1. R. Newman (1707)
  2. T. Stewart (1531)
  3. J. McMurray (1350)
  4. K. Kahne (1344)
  5. K. Larson (1326)