Article via The Fourth Turn (TheFourthTurn.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C.– In an effort to encourage dynamic racing throughout the entire length of an event, NASCAR announced a new race format on Monday night at the Charlotte Convention Center.
Every race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will have a three-segment format. The races will be broken up by Stages 1, 2 and 3.
"The format enhancements that will occur for our race events at Darlington Raceway will be ones I feel our fans will enjoy," said Darlington Raceway President, Kerry Tharp. "It will add more excitement throughout the entire race, intensify the competition and provide additional moments of drama. The collaboration of NASCAR's entire industry, including the drivers, are what made these enhancements possible. The emphasis on winning and performing at a high level has never been greater. Darlington Raceway is no stranger to putting on exciting race events and this will only increase the excitement for our Labor Day throwback weekend."
Stage one and two will follow similar guidelines. Teams and drivers will understand the lap that each stage will end. At the end of Stage one and two, the top-10 finishers will earn race points with the winner earning 10 points. Each finisher behind the winner will earn one point less. Stage 1 and 2 winners will also earn one point towards the Playoff, formerly known as The Chase.
"The race is going to be divided into three stages: Stage 1, the stage will conclude on a specific lap so every race fan, every crew member, every team will know in advance what constitutes a stage length," said NASCAR Executive Vice President, Steve O'Donnell.
"The race will begin, pit road will be closed approximately five laps prior to the stage ending, and at the conclusion of Stage 1, the top-10 drivers are awarded points. 10 for first, nine for second, on down to one for tenth."
O'Donnell also mentioned that pit stops under the caution will be covered live.
He then continued in saying, "After the cars have cycled through their pit stops, the stage winner and crew chief will be interviewed, either in car, over the PA, or TV, and then we'll start Stage two exactly the way the cars came off pit road."
Stage three will play out the same way fans are accustomed to seeing a race end. Following the checkered flag, every driver will be awarded points on a 40-1 points system, the same as drivers have been rewarded over the previous few seasons. The winner of the event at the end of Stage three will receive five playoff points and will be named the winner of the race.
"The Final Stage of the race will be concluded just like races are today," O'Donnell said. "Race points and purse are paid out based on this stage, and 40 points will be awarded to the race winner.
"We've eliminated bonus points for leading a lap or leading the most laps, and we've built that into the overall point system.
"Overtime is still in play. At the end of the race we're going to make every effort to finish the race under green. The race winner is playoff eligible and will receive five points for each win for the playoffs.
"Again, every race matters, and drivers are rewarded for their efforts all race long."
With these enhancements, drivers will be incentivized by points, not only throughout the entire length of the race, but throughout the entire season, no matter their success early in the year. Drivers will no longer earn bonus points for laps led. Instead, they are racing to win a segment of the event to earn Playoff points.
The Playoff will follow a similar model as the former Chase did; however, a regular season champion, the driver with the most championship points after the first 26 races, will now be awarded before the playoff field is set. The regular season champion and a combination of 15 regular season race-winners and highest championship point-recipients, will make up the 16-driver Playoff for the final 10 races of the season. The points will then be reset to 2000 points for the 16 drivers in the playoff field.
"Here's the enhancements that we've added: Our fans have spoken and we'll now declare a regular-season champion based upon the most points earned through the first 26 races," O'Donnell said. "We'll also award points for the playoffs based on regular-season performance, and that will carry through the first three rounds of the playoffs. What you do in those first 26 races really matters, not only to get into the playoffs but continue to move on in each round.
"Race wins will be awarded with five points. Those will also carry through the first three rounds and continue to build throughout the rounds as we head to Miami.
"Stage wins will be awarded one point. That one point will carry through the playoffs, as well, through the first three rounds. Simply put, there are three ways to earn playoff points: Stage wins, race wins, and regular-season playoff points."
The Playoff in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will still follow a four-round format of 16 drivers, reduced to 12 drivers, then to eight drivers and down to four drivers for the final round. The NASCAR XFINITY Series will begin with 12 drivers before reducing the field and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will begin with 8 drivers in the playoffs before tapering down the playoff field after each round.