Auto Racing: NASCAR announces format changes for Chase for the Championship
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org January 30, 2014 7:38PM
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:05PM
There’s going to be a lot more at stake in September when NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race comes to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.
NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer Brian France announced Thursday major changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship format that will impact the Sept. 14 GEICO 400 in Joliet.
France said there will be 16 drivers in the Chase — instead of 12 — and winning regular-season races will be the primary criteria for making the Chase.
The 10 Chase races will be broken up into categories. The first three events, which include the first Chase race in Joliet, will be the Challenger Round. Four drivers will be eliminated after the Challenger round, leaving 12 to advance to the three-race Contender Round.
Eight drivers will move on to the three-race Eliminator Round. Only four drivers will be able to make it out of the Eliminator Round and compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
“The final event will settle the championship,” France said. “There will be no math, no bonus points, and it’s going to be the first of four drivers to cross the finish line who will define the champion.
“That’s as simple as it gets. It rewards winning, and it rewards the drivers and teams who perform at the highest level.”
Victories in 26 regular-season races will guarantee a driver a spot in the Chase. The Chase field will be determined after the Sept. 6 race in Richmond, Va., as has been done in the past, and point totals will be reset at 2,000.
France said NASCAR officials were discussing a change to the Chase format for about three years. France also said officials discussed the potential changes with track administrators, drivers and their teams.
It’s a change Chicagoland Speedway president Scott Paddock likes. Paddock also appreciated how track presidents, drivers and teams were part of the process.
“There were several senior level NASCAR officials that I spoke to and I shared my thoughts with them,” Paddock said. “That’s what is so satisfying about this, and that’s why people came away feeling so good about it. We all had a voice.
“It was a decision (made) by getting feedback from the fans, and now it’s all about winning (races).”
The Speedway also is in the midst of a two-year improvement project. The grandstands in Turns 1 and 4 are being removed to make way for a fan hospitality area.
Paddock said that despite this year’s harsh winter some of the grandstands already have been removed and the project “is progressing.”