CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR revealed enhancements to the race format Monday that are intended to create more urgency and make the regular season more meaningful.
Under the new system, for the first time, points will be awarded during the 26-race regular season that carryover through the playoffs, all the way until the season finale in Miami.
The adjustments will be for all three series — Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series — and come after collaboration and input from industry stakeholders, including drivers and teams.
NASCAR also noted that the alterations to the race format will allow fans to see more racing, minimizing green-flag laps missed because of natural breaks.
“Simply put, this will make our great racing even better,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, in a statement. “I’m proud of the unprecedented collaboration from our industry stakeholders, each of whom had a common goal – strengthening 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.”
Said reigning Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin on what all this means to the drivers: “There are no off weeks. Every single race matters. Not only that, but every lap of every race matters.”
For fans who might be uneasy about what was announced, Brad Keselowski said: “Wait to see this on the race track. This is going to be the best racing you’ve ever seen.”
Every race will consist of three stages with points earned in each stage. The Daytona 500 will not be altered. Stage points will be awarded in the duel qualifying races, which are held three days before the Daytona 500.
Points will be awarded to the top-10 finishers in each of the first two stages of a race. The stage winner will receive 10 points. Points will descend to the 10th-place finisher, who will receive one point.
The race winner will receive 40 points. Second place will collect 35 points with third earning 34 points. That descends one point per position. The driver who finishes 35th receives two points. Any driver who finishes 36th or worse scores one point.
There will be no bonus points awarded for leading a lap.
If a driver wins both stages and the race, they’ll score a maximum 60 points for the event.
A race will be deemed official at the end of the second stage. If the race ends at that point, the leader would receive the stage points and race points.
“I think this is an exciting time for NASCAR and the fans should be excited about this,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
NASCAR also announced a playoff bonus structure that will see the regular-season points leader honored.
The regular-season points leader will be given a 15-point bonus that will be added to the driver’s reset total of 2,000 points. The driver who is second in the standings after the regular season ends receives a 10-point bonus. That descends to a one-point bonus for the driver 10th in the standings. Drivers 11th or lower who qualify for the playoffs do not receive a bonus.
The bonus points carry through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Also, the winner of the first two stages of each regular-season race would receive one bonus playoff point to be added to their reset total before the playoffs begin. The race winner will receive five bonus playoff points to be added to their reset total.
Those bonus points also can be earned in the playoff races. Thus, a driver who wins the playoff opener at Chicagoland would receive five points that would count to their total.
“Race fans deserve to see races that matter,” said NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton. “When races matter, the fans win.”
A race win will still help a driver and team qualify for the playoffs. NASCAR will no longer use the term Chase
The overall structure of the playoffs remains the same. There will be 16 drivers who make the playoffs in Cup (12 in Xfinity and eight in the Truck Series). NASCAR will reseed after each round.
In Cup, four drivers will be eliminated after each round, leaving four to compete for the title in the season finale in Miami.
The season finale in Miami will remain unchanged. Four drivers will compete for the title with the one finishing highest among the group the series champion.