It has certainly been a successful off-season for the sport of NASCAR. When the final checkered flag waved in 2016 to crown Jimmie Johnson its champion for a record-tying seventh championship, it was the final time a Sprint Cup champion was crowned. Beginning in January, a new title sponsor was coming in. After having a tobacco company and a cell phone company, the sport looked to a new way to get fans in.
Who comes in…Monster Energy. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will debut in February, along with not just a new title sponsor, but an entirely new NASCAR logo in itself.
But, that was only the beginning. On Monday, with NASCAR owners, drivers, and directors on hand, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell, announced an entirely new format that the three top series will follow beginning this season.
“These are enhancements that the NASCAR fan has long sought, and the entire industry has worked hard to develop a better racing format for our fans,” said O’Donnell. “This format puts a premium on every victory and every in-race position over the course of the season. Each point can eventually result in winning or losing a championship.”
The new format came from input from owners, drivers, crew chiefs, and the fans themselves. All done to put a better product on the track, one that could bring in new fans, especially with the new title sponsor.
The new 2017 race format is as follows:
- Each race will be divided into three segments, or stages. Stage lengths will vary depending on the track, and race length. The first two segments, no matter the race, will be the same distance in lap count. Teams will be made aware of how long the stages will be in the pre-race meeting.
- STAGE 1: Pit road will be closed approximately five laps before the conclusion of the stage. The finish of the segment will be designated in the flag stand by a white and green checkered flag. The caution period that follows will have cars remain on track. At the conclusion of the first stage, the top-10 in the field will receive points (1st-10 points, 2nd-9 points, etc). The winner of the first stage will also earn one playoff point. Pit road will then open for stops. The stage winner will be interviewed after pit stops, however how cars exit pit road will be how the line-up is set for stage 2.
- STAGE 2: Same setup as first stage, with points awarded for top-10 and the playoff point added to the stage winner.
- STAGE 3: Same format as races in the past. Race points and purse handed out based on final stage. NASCAR’s “overtime” rules will remain, as in the overtime line and no set amount of tries to get a legal start. The winner of this stage is considered the race winner, and will earn 40 points for the win, plus five playoff points. There are no bonus points awarded anymore for leading one lap, nor the most laps. Second-place will earn 35 points, with one less point per position after that.
NASCAR also has eliminated the term “Chase” which has been used since the 2004 season. It is only termed the NASCAR Playoffs, however the eligibility remains the same as the previous three years, with race wins and points determining the first round of 16, then decreasing to a round of 12, Round of 8 and the Championship 4. Drivers in the Playoffs that win a race in that round automatically move into the next round of competition.
However, there are new enhancements for the Playoffs this season.
- At the conclusion of 26 races, based on input from the fans, the leader in points will be declared the regular season champion. That driver will earn an additional 15 playoff points towards their reset total of 2000 points entering the playoffs. Drivers in positions 2-10 will also earn playoff points. Second will receive 10 points, third will receive eight points, with one less point down to 10th.
- All playoff points earned will carry through the Round of 8, with playoff points and wins determining the seeding in the Round of 12 and the Round of 8.
- Homestead-Miami Speedway will host the Championship Weekend, and determining the champion will remain the same as the previous three seasons. The champion will be determined the same way, with the top-four racing straight up, the first one to the checkered flag at the end of the final segment being declared the season champion.
In one race, whether in the regular season or in playoffs, a driver can earn a maximum of 60 points and seven playoff points.
It was also revealed that points will also be awarded for the top-10 finishers in the season-opening Clash at Daytona, which traditionally has been a non-points race. However, of the eligible drivers in the Clash, only the top-10 finishers will receive points, and it will be based on the Stage 1 and 2 format. No race-finish points will be awarded.
Also, the NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte will not earn points for stage or race win.
The new race format will go in effect on February 21 for the Camping World Trucks, February 22 for the Xfinity Series, and on February 23 in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup for the Daytona 500.