Jan 30, 2014, 3:34 PM EDT
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
Apr 19, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Romain Grosjean manages to salvage some points for Lotus in Bahrain, finishing seventh.
Apr 19, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Ed Jones survives streets of Long Beach to win Round 3 for Indy Lights.
Apr 19, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Ricciardo finishes the race in a blaze of glory, but holds on to sixth place for Red Bull.
Apr 19, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Watch the third round of the IndyCar season, from the streets of Long Beach, at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Apr 19, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
German driver was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop towards the end of the race in Bahrain after running over the kerbs at the final corner.
Apr 19, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Watch the third round of the Indy Lights season today at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Apr 19, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Elements to look out for in the third race of the IndyCar season, at Long Beach.
Apr 19, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
A spirited effort from the German driver falls flat as a brake problem leaves him third at the end of the race.
Apr 19, 2015, 1:42 PM EDT
Josef Newgarden fastest in IndyCar morning warmup.
Apr 19, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
Raikkonen rallies to second place in Bahrain, marking his first podium finish since the 2013 Korean Grand Prix.
Apr 19, 2015, 1:13 PM EDT
British driver holds on to win the Bahrain Grand Prix for the second time despite a last lap brake scare.
Apr 19, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT
NBC News’ Kerry Sanders goes for a two-seater lap with Mario Andretti at Long Beach.
Apr 19, 2015, 12:44 PM EDT
Defending world champion dominates proceedings in Bahrain to finish ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg.
Apr 19, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Indonesian driver clinches his first victory in the GP2 Series at the 70th attempt.
Apr 19, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Mercedes and Ferrari prepare to duel in the desert on Sunday. Join us on NBCSN and Live Extra from 10:30am ET for all of the action from the Bahrain International Circuit.
Apr 19, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton will lead the grid away in Bahrain on Sunday ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg.
Apr 19, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
Watch a sneak preview of today’s episode as we hear from local racer Daniel Ricciardo on his home race weekend.
Apr 19, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Starting from pole position, Hamilton goes in search of his third win of the season in Bahrain.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
Beretta’s Ferrari to start up front for Round 5 of season.
- WATCH LIVE: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Live Extra 0
- What to watch for: IndyCar at Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Live Extra) 0
- Hamilton pleased to fend off Ferrari in Bahrain despite last lap brake scare 1
- Hamilton puts on a show under the lights to win Bahrain GP 3
- Off The Grid: Melbourne premieres 1:30pm ET on NBCSN (VIDEO) 0
- Castroneves secures pole in IndyCar qualifying at Long Beach 1
- Hamilton eases to fourth straight pole position in Bahrain 0