Monday, January 23, 2017

NASCAR Unveils New Points System Geared Toward Enhancing On-Track Product


Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski take part in a press conference outlining enhanced points system.
Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
by Katy Lindamood 

Just when you think you understand the NASCAR points system and The Chase format, NASCAR turns everything on its top. In front of a packed house, NASCAR unveiled its new enhanced points system Monday evening. To say it's confusing might be the understatement of the year, so let's break it down.

Races will now consist of three stages

Each of the first two segments will consist of a set number of laps. The final segment length will be variable based on the overall race length. No news yet on how many laps segments one and two will be. 

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice
President and Chief Racing Development Officer
Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
According to Steve O'Donnell, "Pit road will be closed approximately five laps prior to the stage ending ... The cars will remain on the track under yellow flag conditions. We'll open pit road, and pit stops will be covered live. 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 2 exactly the way the cars came off pit road."

The top-10 finishers of the first two segments will be awarded additional championship points.

This means that any driver finishing in spots 1-10 (in stages 1 and 2) will get more points towards their total accumulated points. The first-place driver will receive 10 points, second place will receive 9 points, third place will receive 8 points and so on down the line. 

The final stage of the race will determine the overall race winner.

Points will be awarded as in the past with the first-place driver receiving 40 points, second place 35, third place 34 and so on throughout the final running order. 

The winners of the first two stages will receive 1 point toward their playoff totals and the overall race winner will receive an additional five points towards his or her playoff points total.

"The playoffs, how does this affect our playoff system? We talked about the races, let's talk about the playoffs," Said O'Donnell. "Here's what won't be changing: Eligibility remains the same. It's based on race wins and points. The number of drivers and teams, the elimination structure all remain, 16 drivers, down to 12, down to 8, down to 4. You win, and you advance to the next round."

Instead of using the term Chase to describe the final races of the season, NASCAR will use "Playoffs." Playoff points awarded during the "regular" season will be added to a driver's point totals following the seeding after the cutoff race. So in the Monster Energy Cup Series, drivers who earned points for winning races or stages during the first 26 events will see these points added to their tally. It's like the "bonus" points awarded during the Chase years, but with the addition of stage winner points. These playoff points will carry through until the final four are determined for Homestead.

Bonus points for leading laps will no longer be awarded.

The new structure will not allow drivers to earn an additional point for leading one lap or an additional point for leading the most laps.

Regular season champion will receive an additional advantage in playoffs.

In the past, drivers who were in the points lead following the regular season were not awarded for their efforts. Under the new structure, a driver who leads the standings following the cutoff race will be awarded an additional 15 playoff points to be added to his or her total following the reset. Those within the top 10 for the regular season will also receive additional points with second earning 10 points, third earning 8, fourth earning 7, etc.

O'Donnell illustrated how the bonus points would work. "Using this example of a driver who had one stage win, one race win and led the regular season in points, they'd have 21 points at the start of the playoffs heading into Chicago. The bottom line for this is that it's about listening and rewarding the drivers, listening to the fans, having more moments and more importantly carrying this out through the entire season."

 "So if you incentivize these guys and they race their guts
out, but if you incentivize them to go earn something
during the race, it makes it so they want to race that
 much harder, and race fans deserve to see races that
 matter, and this is an enhancement that will help
make that happen, and when races matter, the fans win."
Jeff Burton

Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Whether or not this new system will generate more excitement for fans is yet to be determined. 

How do drivers feel about the new system? Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhard Jr. and Brad Keselowski believe the new system will generate more excitement and and less laying back after a win.

"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, gives you a little bit of cushion there to be able to get through the playoffs and make it to Homestead, and that's what it's all about for us is making it to Homestead and trying to race for a championship, and I think this format does it for it," said Hamlin.

Earnhardt Jr. added, "...the stages are going to bring a lot of excitement for the drivers and the fans. I was in a unique position this past season to be a driver and a fan, and definitely I think this creates a lot of interest in a part of the event, in every event, every single week where it was needed. There will be a lot on the line."

One thing's for certain, it's going to be an interesting season! The fun begins in just a few weeks when the Duels at Daytona run. Yes, you heard right. NASCAR will be awarding points for the Duels.

Joie Chitwood, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer of International Speedway Corporation, said, "There's an opportunity at Daytona that is unique as well that is part of this announcement. The Duels at Daytona will now actually pay points, so the top-10 finishers for each of the Duels will receive the same points as a stage winner: the ten, the nine, the eight, all the way down to one. It does not qualify as a stage win, but it does pay out regular-season points."

What are your thoughts on the new system? Do you find it confusing? How do you think the person flipping the channels and coming across the race will react? Leave your comments below. 

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