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NASCAR Extends Playoffs To XFINITY, Truck Series For 2016

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2016
Brian France says teams in drivers and all of NASCAR's premier series will be 'chasing' championships this year. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Brian France says teams in drivers and all of NASCAR’s premier series will be ‘chasing’ championships this year. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In the spirit of the late Eagles founder/guitarist Glenn Frey, NASCAR is going to Chase it to the limit in 2016.

The elimination-style format that crowned Kyle Busch as 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion will be extended with tweaks to the XFINITY and Camping World Truck bugtourseries this season, one of several innovations addressed by NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France Tuesday at the start of the 34th annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour.

“A lot of people thought that an elimination-style format in motorsports wasn’t possible and it wouldn’t work properly,” France said during his State of the Sport address in the NASCAR Hall of Fame Theater. “The reality is it’s not only possible, it’s the way to crown the champion in the most exciting form of motorsports _ and there’s no question about that. Our fans have rallied around the format. Our drivers, our teams have done that.”

Busch, of Joe Gibbs Racing, emerged from the 10-race Chase as a first-time Cup champ at Homestead-Miami Speedway from a “Final Four” including four-time series champion Jeff Gordon in his farewell start. France noted that NBC’s telecast generated the highest season-finale viewership for NASCAR in nearly a decade along with record traffic on NASCAR.com and social media _ all key elements to attracting a younger demographic.

“Fans, partners and the industry have embraced the new Chase format like nothing we’ve seen in the sport’s history,” France said. “Winning never has been this important, and the excitement generated the past two seasons in the Sprint Cup Series has led to this implementation of the Chase format in all three national series. Competition in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will undoubtedly elevate to new heights and shine a spotlight on the rising stars of our sport.”

The XFINITY and Camping World Truck series will implement seven-race, three-round Chase formats with unique characteristics but very much in the spirit of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. All three series will conclude the Chase with a Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to crown a champion. However, all three will begin at different tracks _ Chicagoland Speedway (Sprint Cup Series), Kentucky Speedway (XFINITY Series) and New Hampshire Motor Speedway (CWTS).

Drivers still must declare a series in which they will earn points, and will only be eligible to compete for a championship in that series. The 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who qualified for the 2015 Chase will be ineligible to compete in the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 races at HMS.

The seven-race XFINITY Series Chase will begin at Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 24, and feature 12 drivers and two elimination rounds, with four drivers competing in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

A win in the first 26 races all but guarantees a driver entry into the NASCAR XFINITY Chase, provided the driver is in the top-30 in points and has attempted to qualify for each race. Drivers who win two Dash 4 Cash bonuses also are all but guaranteed a Chase berth.

The first round, called the Round of 12, consists of the races at Kentucky, Dover International Speedway and CMS. All drivers will start with their points adjusted to 2,000, with three additional bonus points added to their total for each win in the first 26 races. If a driver wins a race in the Round of 12, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions (1-8) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points.

Each driver who advances to the Round of 8 (Kansas Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway) then will have their points reset to 3,000. Drivers who win a race in the Round of 8 automatically advance to the Championship 4. The remaining available positions (1-4) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points.

The four drivers who advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead will have their points reset to 4,000. The highest-finishing Championship 4 driver will be crowned the NASCAR XFINITY Series champion.

The seven-race Camping World Truck Series Chase will begin at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 24. It will feature eight drivers and two elimination rounds, with four drivers competing in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A win in the first 16 races all but guarantees a driver entry into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, provided that the driver is in the top-30 in points and has attempted to qualify for each race.

The first round, called the Round of 8, consists of the races at New Hampshire, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. All drivers will have their points adjusted to 2,000, with three additional bonus points added to their total for each win in the first 16 races. If a driver wins a race in the Round of 8, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions (1-6) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points.

Each driver who advances to the Round of 6 (Martinsville Speedway, TMS, PIR) then will have their points reset to 3,000. Drivers who win a race in the Round of 6 automatically advance to the Championship 4. The remaining available positions (1-4) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points.

The four drivers who advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead will have their points reset to 4,000. The highest finishing Championship 4 driver will win the championship.

NASCAR’s long-running flirtation with a charter system for team owners is nearing completion, although France was vague on details.

“There has been a lot of talk about a new charter system for team owners and how that can work to make a team ownership model better,” France said. “I’m very optimistic that we’re going to get that new ownership structure completed…and that will be historic for us, too. We’ll make the racing better in the long run and secure the ownership experience for the future.”

Asked specifically if there was a deadline to install the system _ as in before the season-opening Daytona 500 next month _ France again danced around the issue.

“Well, I’m not going to get into specifics of the plan because we don’t have it finished yet, and it’s still moving around a little bit,” France said. “The timeline is sooner rather than later. The further we get in, the longer you have to push out in a certain season where we could…by the way, whatever is the final arrangement should we be able to get there, this is going to be a phase where from one moment to the next, everything will be different.

“This is a very complicated plan and structure that will require some time to phase in many aspects of it. And we’ll just have to see from a…we’ll announce things as soon as we can, but I’m optimistic. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t…I was in the meetings myself last week, and I’m optimistic, although these things, as complicated as they are, can always move around on us.”

The Truck Series is on the clock, as NASCAR will implement a “caution clock” this season. Basically, a clock will begin counting down from 20 minutes at the start of each green flag, and should a caution flag not fly before it hits zero, a competition caution flag will be used to reset the field and allow teams to hit the pits.

“We think this is going to add to the strategy in the race,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “That is an area where some of our younger drivers, younger teams, newer teams, can really use the competition caution to adjust the truck. We think that is going to be huge for the teams.”

O’Donnell said the unique format is only targeted for the Truck Series, for now. I think it’s been something that we believe fits perfectly for that series,” O’Donnell said. “Sure, we’ll always look at it and see how it works and talk to the industry about it. This is an idea that actually came from the industry and the collaboration that Brian talked about earlier, so for now we’ll keep it there.”

Lesa France Kennedy indicated the “remaking” of Daytona International Speedway via its “Daytona Rising” project is the first of several improvements ticketed for International Speedway Corporation facilities.

“The whole team is extremely excited and we can’t wait for everybody to get to Daytona, first of all with the Rolex 24 (sports car race), and have a chance to see the new Daytona Rising project, but also to move forward to the Daytona 500 and to be able to showcase the event,” said France Kennedy, CEO of ISC and vice chairperson of the board of directors of both ISC and NASCAR. “It’s so important to continue to modernize these tracks and to be able to bring the modern-day amenities and comforts into these tracks.

“I can tell you that we’re taking a look at Richmond (International Raceway) and also in Phoenix _ those will probably be some of the next tracks that we look at. We’re always improving tracks across our portfolio, but those are great markets that we need to look at, and also great racing experiences. I think we can make some great improvements there.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2016
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