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Helton Chats Points, Double Dips

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 21 2011

Wet weather descended upon Daytona International Speedway on Friday, postponing NASCAR testing. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Daytona Beach, Fla. – NASCAR officials indicated Friday that there will be some tweaking of the rules for the 2011 season, but they didn’t offer many details that weren’t already widely known.

NASCAR president Mike Helton confirmed what drivers have already said about being able to compete in just one national series. He said the change is being made to allow more attention to be focused on the up-and-coming drivers in the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series instead of on the double-dipping Cup drivers in those divisions.

He said that series sponsor Nationwide and several drivers asked for a “grandfather clause” type of treatment for Cup drivers who had been regulars in the Nationwide series, but the decision was made to make a clean break.

“It’s better for everybody concerned,” Helton said. “There will be no lingering effects.”

Helton also indicated that a new points system is coming to the top three series. It likely will be one in which points are awarded one per position from with the winner getting 43 points and the last place driver just one. There likely will be bonus points offered to encourage drivers to race for wins and to

NASCAR president Mike Helton talked about double dipping and points at Daytona on Friday. (File photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

keep championships from being decided by consistency alone. And there are expected to be provisions that allow drivers who don’t finish the regular season in the elite group but have won races to have a shot at being added to the Chase field.

He said the goal is to make the points system easier to understand for casual fans as well as those more familiar with the sport.

Helton said the current system, which has graduated drops down through finishing order, is “sometimes complicated even for us.”

Helton said that he doesn’t believe the sport will have credibility issues because of changing its points system so close to the start of a new season. He said the changes will be accepted quickly because series officials have spent time already discussing changes with race teams and other stake-holders in the sport. And he said fans have proven to be a pretty quick study of things like rules changes.

The rookie of the year program also is expected to undergo some changes. With no rookie drivers signed up to run full-time in Cup this year, adjustments likely will be made to deal with a rookie like Trevor Bayne, who is signed to drive the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford but only has 17 races scheduled this year.

Helton said starting times for Cup races, which were standardized last year, could see some changes. He said the times might need to be adjusted given the length of the NASCAR season. Last year, races started just after 1 p.m., 3 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. depending on the location of the track.

NASCAR appears to be on pace to switch from carburetors to fuel injection, but fuel injection won’t be used in points-paying Cup races this year. Cars will run on an ethanol blend fuel and a new fueling system that doesn’t require a traditional vent will be used.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 21 2011
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