In a dramatic turn from the traditional style of racing, for which NASCAR has been famous since its inception in 1948, NASCAR has changed their racing format to attract a new crowd of television viewers.
The new race format is being intended to deliver moments that are more exciting over the entire race. This will cover the season with point incentives that some find confusing, leaving many of the long-time stalwarts of the sport mystified about all the point inclusions aiming toward one champion.
With the three segments, NASCAR will throw a caution flag at a predesigned lap to allow the television networks of FOX and NBC to focus more on the green flag coverage with commercial breaks during these segments, which will include full pit-stop coverage. After sagging ratings of their sport, NASCAR felt a change needed to be made.
The new system will be in effect for all three NASCAR national series – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Here’s a rundown of how it works:
- Races will now consist of three stages, with championship implications in each stage.
- At the end of the race (third segment), the winner will get 40 points, and then second through 35th will be awarded points on a 35-to-2 scale. Those finishing 36th to 40th will be awarded one point. There will be no bonus points for leading a lap or leading the most laps.
- The winner of the first two stages of each race will receive one playoff point, and the race winner will receive five playoff points. Each playoff point will be added to their reset total following race No. 26, if that competitor makes the playoffs. Drivers will now carry bonus points – called “playoff points” – throughout the entire playoffs (instead of just the first round) when the points are reset. Drivers will earn five playoff points for every race win and one playoff point for every segment win.
- The top-10 finishers of the first two stages will be awarded additional championship points in a declining order of 10-9-8-down to one.
- NASCAR also announced a playoff bonus structure that will see the regular season points leader honored as the regular season champion, earning 15 playoff points that will be added to the driver’s playoff reset of 2,000.
The top-10 drivers in the standings in the regular season also earn additional playoff points on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale. Drivers will continue to accumulate points throughout the playoffs and carry all the points earned during the year into each of the first three-playoff rounds, with the Championship 4 racing straight up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title.
- Qualifying for the playoffs remains the same – the regular-season champion plus 15 drivers based on wins with ties broken by points will get into the playoffs, as long as they are in the top 30 in the standings.
- The playoffs will remain divided into three three-race rounds, with four drivers eliminated after each round to set up four finalists for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Drivers automatically qualify into the next round with a win in that playoff round, and the remaining spots filled by the point standings. At Homestead, the top-finishing driver among the four finalists at the end of the race wins the title.
- The race purse will be paid at the final stage.
- The 150-mile qualifying races at Daytona will be worth points to the top-10 drivers on a 10-to-1 scale (just like a race segment), but the winners do not get bonus points for the playoffs.
- NASCAR won’t allow teams to replace body panels during a race, and teams will have additional limitations on crash repair that likely will mean most drivers who have to go to the garage won’t return for the remainder of the race.
The Daytona 500 takes the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Daytona International Speedway.