CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR announced major changes to its points format on Monday night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour.
Races will now consist of three stages with bonus points for the top-10 finishers in the first two stages.
The winner of each stage will also receive one bonus point for the NASCAR playoffs while each race winner will get five bonus points for the 10-race playoffs which weren't referred as the Chase.
The goal is to make the racing better for the entire length of the race. It has been a frequent criticism of fans there have been lulls in the action, particularly at the restrictor-plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.
"Simply put, this will make our great racing even better," NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said. "I'm proud of the unprecedented collaboration from our industry stakeholders, each of whom had a common goal — strengthen the sport for our fans. This is an enhancement fully rooted in teamwork, and the result will be an even better product every single week."
NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell compared the changes to those in other sports.
"The NBA went to the 3-pointer and the NFL moved the field goal back," O'Donnell said. "We don't look at it as a drastic change by any means. We look at it as enhancing the sport."
One change will be the race is no longer official at the halfway point. The race now must go to the end of stage 2 for it to be official.
Track presidents, team executives and some of the sport's top drivers were in attendance to give their thoughts on the event.
"I applaud NASCAR for listening to the fans, listening to the stakeholders and finding a way to improve," Bristol Motor Speedway executive vice president Jerry Caldwell said. "It's a change and we know NASCAR fans don't like change initially. But what you will find is it's not that complicated. What you're taking is a race as normal and breaking it down into segments. It will put more incentive for the drivers to be racing the entire race, not that I'm claiming they didn't. It will get them where they're going to be rewarded after that first segment, after that second segment. So, it's going make for more exciting moments throughout the middle of the race."
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, admitted under the current format that teams would go to more of a test mode after a race win guaranteed their entry into the Chase. He said the new format adds an incentive for every race since the more bonus points a driver collects makes it easier to qualify for the championship race at Homestead.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, believes the in-race strategy could add more excitement. Time he spent on the sideline with concussion issues gave him a different perspective.
"I was in a unique position as a driver, then as a fan," Earnhardt said. "It creates an interest in the part of the event that was needed. It's going to be interesting to watch these crew chiefs come up with strategy that could help their drivers get the most points in each stage. It will be fun how it evolves."
Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford, specifically pointed to Daytona and Talladega and how it should keep drivers from lagging back in the early and middle stages of the race. He also pointed out how frequent mechanical failure was a point in how NASCAR races were originally scheduled. He believes this format is better suited for how equipment has evolved.
Hamlin hopes the strategy of going after bonus points will lead to more shuffling of fast cars and slower cars.
"When the field gets swapped around, the racing gets better with more side-by-side racing," Hamlin said.
Beyond the single races, NASCAR will award a regular-season championship with the top driver earning 15 points toward the playoffs. The second-place driver will receive 100 points.
All playoff points carry through until the final race of the season at Homestead.
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Hendrick Motorsports announced Monday that Hooters of America is going to be the sponsor the No. 24 Chevrolet of Chase Elliott for a pair of races at Talledega and Phonenix this season.
The announcement comes on the 25th anniversary of one of the most memorable championship battles. Alan Kulwicki in a Hooters-sponsored car edged Elliott's father, Bill in what was then the closest points race in NASCAR history.