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NASCAR changes points system to spread competition, reward throughout races

Enhanced competition format for NASCAR

On Monday, NASCAR announced its enhanced competition format that will be implemented in all three of its national series this season: the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
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On Monday, NASCAR announced its enhanced competition format that will be implemented in all three of its national series this season: the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

In an attempt to help boost lagging attendance and television ratings, NASCAR announced Monday it is revamping how it will award points during races.

Under the new system, races will be divided into three segments, with drivers gaining points depending on how they finish in each segment. The goal? To make the racing and competition more meaningful throughout the entire race, rather than just the final laps. That’s been a problem with which NASCAR has long grappled.

Here are questions – and answers – about the new scoring system.

Q. What are the basics?

A. Races will now consist of three stages, with the top 10 finishers in each of the first two stages awarded bonus points. The final segment will conclude the race as usual, with the winner receiving 40 points, descending through the 40th-place finisher, who earns one.

Q. How will the system affect the postseason?

A. The winner of the race receives five playoff points, with each playoff point being added to his or her reset total following the first race of the playoffs (if that driver makes the playoffs). All playoff points carry through to the end of the third round of the playoffs, with the final four racing straight-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title.

There will still be 16 drivers who qualify for the postseason, and a victory remains virtually an automatic qualifier.

Q. Why haven’t you called the postseason, the “Chase?”

A The “Chase” is gone and the “playoffs” have arrived, in NASCAR terminology. NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said there has long been confusion about what the Chase is among those not familiar with the sport. Now the 10-race postseason will simply be called the playoffs.

“I think that for all the folks that have been asking us to get rid of the Chase for years, this is a great day for them,” driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. joked.

Q. Will the new system be implemented in other series?

A. Yes, the Xfinity and Truck series will also use the system. They switched to the Cup’s playoff format last season, as well.

Q. Can a non-winner receive more points than the race winner?

A. Yes. For instance, if a driver wins the first two segments (for a total of 20 points) and finishes second in the race (39 more points, for a total of 59), that might be more than the race winner who earned 40 points but didn’t fare well in the early stages.

Q. Do the drivers like it?

A. The three who were at Monday’s news conference at the Charlotte Convention Center – Denny Hamlin, Earnhardt and Brad Keselowski – did.

Keselowski: “It creates more chances to win, more spotlights. It will be a new level of racing we haven’t seen before. If we created motorsports from scratch today, this is what it would have been.”

Earnhardt: “I love the fact that bonus points will go all the way through the last round. The stages will bring a lot of excitement for drivers and fans. It creates excitement in part of the event where it was needed.”

Hamlin: “There will be no off weeks. Every single race and every lap of every race matters. You’ve always felt a little bit relaxed once you got a race win. Now each accomplishment for the overall regular season – a stage win or a race win – makes your road to Homestead a little easier, with a little more cushion. That’s what it’s all about for us.”

Q. What happens if it rains?

A. The end of the second stage will serve as the cut-off point for a race if it needs to be called for bad weather. The halfway point – by laps – had been used to make that call.

Q. Can a segment end under caution?

A. Yes, a segment can end under caution. There is no overtime after the first and second segments, although there will continue to be at the end of the race, if necessary. 

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