During the Sprint Media Tour in Charlotte on Thursday, NASCAR unveiled a new format for its 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup postseason. The new format will expand the Chase field to 16 drivers and include eliminations every three races during the 10-race period.
“We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race, all of which is exactly what fans want,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said. “We have looked at a number of concepts for the last three years through fan research, models and simulations and also maintained extensive dialogue with our drivers, teams and partners. The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be thrilling, easy to understand and help drive our sports’ competition to a whole new level.”
Under this new format, there’s a “win and your in” sort of feel. The 15 drivers with the most wins in the first 26-race “regular season” will automatically earn spots in the Chase as long as they’re in the top-30 in points at the end of race 26 and attempted to qualify for every race up to that point. The 16th spot will go to the points leader after race 26, if he/she isn’t already in by virtue of at least one trip to victory lane. If the points leader has a win and there are more than 16 race winners by the completion of race 26, the 16th spot in the Chase will go to the next driver on the wins list. If there are too few drivers with wins to fill out the Chase spots, other than the one going to the points leader, NASCAR will revert back to the points standings to fill the remaining slots. Points for Chase drivers will be reset to 2000 plus three bonus points for each win in the regular season.
The first round of three Chase races will be referred to as the Challenger round. Any of those 16 drivers winning at least one of those three races will automatically advance to round two. Twelve drivers will advance to the second Chase round. Aside from winners in the first three races, the remaining of the 12 spots will be filled by eligible Chase drivers based on the points standings. Points for those advancing will be reset to 3000.
The second round, to be called the Contender Round, will cut the Chase field down to eight drivers during races four through six of the Chase. The winners of these three races, who are still Chase eligible, will automatically advance to round three, with the rest of the eight spots being claimed by other drivers still in the Chase who are highest in the points standings. Those advancing will then see their points reset to 4000.
The third round, or Eliminator Round, will go from race seven to race nine of the Chase. Like in other rounds, race winners in this round, who have not previously been eliminated, will advance to the final one-race round, as the Chase field is cut to four drivers. The remaining of the four spots will go to drivers still eligible who have the most points.
The four remaining drivers will have their points reset to 5000 and race for the championship in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The highest finisher of the four in the final race of the season will be the 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion, as bonus points for laps led will not count in the final race of the season for the remaining title contenders.