The Effect Of Monday’s Big News Is Unknown
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR executives, team owners, drivers and track owners were extremely positive Monday when the sanctioning body announced the most drastic race format change in its history, but several questions remained with the season opening events in the three national touring series just weeks away.
Will the fans be able to follow the point format?
Will it change the racing at the restrictor-plate tracks?
Will it inject different pit strategies or will everyone play follow the leader?
Will fans no longer get frustrated by numerous commercials interrupting the on-track action?
Will the racing be more exciting and intense?
It was the last question that no doubt played the most instrumental role in NASCAR’s decision to implement the drastic changes. In a collaborative effort involving NASCAR executives, drivers, team and track owners, and TV partners, the group developed the following:
- Each race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series will consist of three segments or stages.
- The top-10 finishers in the first two stages will receive points, beginning with 10 and descending by one through 10th.
- The winner of the first two segments will receive a point credited towards the playoffs should that driver qualify for the post-season. The final segment winner or overall race winner will receive five points towards the point reset. Points also will be awarded for a driver’s overall finishing position in the race, beginning with 40 for the winner, 35 for second, 34 for third, etc. There will no longer be bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps.
- All of the points assigned to a driver for the playoffs will be carried through the first three rounds. Determining the champion in the season’s final race at Homestead remains unchanged. The title still goes to the highest finishing driver of the four racing for the championships.
- The point leader at the end of the regular season will have 15 points added to the reset of 2,000.
“To me, you look at NASCAR and you look at the way our races were formatted back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, it was formatted around endurance, long races, trying to make sure you were there until the end,” Brad Keselowski said, “but today’s technology, the teams are just so smart, and if we created motorsports from scratch today, this is exactly how we would have done it.”
Denny Hamlin says the new format means no “off weeks.”
“From our standpoint, you always felt a little bit relaxed once you got a race win and you would sometimes, maybe, go into test mode or something,” Hamlin said. “Now with each accomplishment that you have during each given race, whether you’re collecting points for the overall regular season or you’re trying to collect points through a stage win or a race win, each accomplishment gives your road to Homestead a little bit easier.”
It’s the restrictor-plate races, though, where Keselowski believes the new format may provide the biggest change.
“You might have seen cars that have lagged back in the past. You’re not going to do that anymore,” Keselowski said. “The single-file, high-line ride out, those days are gone, and I think that’s great.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes the fact that a driver is now rewarded for his or her performance throughout the race, not just the final finishing position.
“It’ll tick you off if you’re in that car for enough races and you’re whipping everybody’s butt all day long and then you get beat by somebody who’s running 20th all day, just by circumstance, how the cautions fall late in the race,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
Despite the drastic format change, International Speedway Corp. President Joie Chitwood noted it wasn’t a new concept, but rather an old one that’s been retooled.
“There’s been a lot of events where we pay halfway money,” Chitwood said. “I think the Daytona 500 had the $200,000 number at the halfway point to incentivize that opportunity. So this is not really new. Many track promoters have worked with the industry to come up with other ways to incentivize other elements of racing early on, so I don’t think it’s a new concept per se.”
While the format may sound good in theory, it still must pass its on-track test. And that grade of pass or fail won’t be known until November.