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NASCAR Unveils Revamped Chase Structure

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 30 2014

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France announced sweeping changes to Sprint Cup playoffs. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR executives confirmed Thursday what had been rumored and speculated on for several weeks – a major change in the Chase format that will emphasize winning throughout the season and make the season finale a winner-take-all event for the championship.

The new format expands the Chase field to 16 drivers and creates elimination brackets similar to those found in stick-and-ball sports. This is how it will work:

–The top 15 drivers with the most victories over the first 26 races will earn a spot in the NASCAR Chase Grid, provided they have finished in the top 30 in points and attempted to qualify for every race, except in rare instances. That rare instance could be a driver who has a victory, but had to miss a race due to a concussion. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president, racing operations, said the “rare instances” would be reviewed at Richmond in September. The 16th Chase position goes to the standings leader after the first 26 races. If there are 16 or more different winners during the first 26 races, the only winless driver who can earn a spot in the Chase Grid is the standings leader. Three bonus points will be awarded for each victory in the first 26 races when the standings are reset for the Chase’s beginning.

– When the Chase begins at Chicago it will be known as the Challenger Round. After the first three races, four drivers will be eliminated, 12 drivers will advance. A driver who wins in this round automatically advances to the next. The rest of the top 12 is set by points. Those who advance have their points reset to 3,000.

– The second segment or Contender Round ends after Talladega when four more drivers are eliminated. It follows the same protocol as the previous round with four more drivers being eliminated. Eight drivers advance to the Eliminator Round. This time the points are reset to 4,000.

– The Eliminator Round involves races at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. Drivers who earn a victory in one of these events automatically advance to the season finale with a shot at the championship. Entering this race the four have their points reset to 5,000. The four championship contenders can’t earn bonus points in the season finale. The champion is simply the first driver among the remaining four to cross the finish line.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said the system had been under discussion for three years with drivers, teams and partners as well as via fan research, models and simulations. He said it eliminated points racing and many fans liked it for that reason.

“You have to win and you have to compete at a higher level,” France said. “You’re probably going to have to take more chances and different strategies are going to unfold, but that’s why we did it.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 30 2014
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