Xfinity Series debuting heat races with new Dash 4 Cash format this weekend

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Brendan Gaughan doesn’t know if he likes the Xfinity Series’ new format for the Dash 4 Cash program, but he knows that he’s excited to find out.

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad,” Gaughan said of the four-race competition that begins this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I don’t care if it’s good or bad yet. Let’s get there and see what it does. If I win $100,000 dollars at Bristol, I’m going to say I love it.”

Saturday’s race, the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300, is the first of four race weekends that will see 40 drivers compete in two heat races prior to a main event where one of four Xfinity Series regulars, like Gaughan, will claim a $100,000 prize.

The other three weekends are at Richmond International Raceway (April 23), Dover International Speedway (May 14) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 23).

The two highest finishing Xfinity Series regulars in each heat race will be eligible for the Dash 4 Cash. The highest finishing of the four in the main event will win $100,000.

Should one driver manage to win the Dash 4 Cash bonus in two of the four race weekends, they will qualify for the Chase, which debuts this season in the Xfinity Series.

Wayne Auton, managing director of the NASCAR Xfinity Series, states that if a team has an issue in its heat race, they can work on their car until the checkered flag of their heat. They are not allowed to work on the car again until the start of the main event.

“That way, if you’re in the first heat and you have an issue, you don’t have more time to fix your car than the people that are in the second heat,” Auton said. “That came from the garage area, which we thought was a great idea. Then when we start the main, everybody starts at zero. If you have trouble and you can’t get your car on the grid for the main, then you can come into the race at any time.”

How are teams approaching the scenario of crashing but not being able to work on their cars while others race?

“It doesn’t really change I think from our standpoint other than there’s a whole race you’re going to be sitting there looking at your race car and can’t do anything,” Gaughan said. “We can’t touch the race car, but we can work in the trailer to build a part to put back on the race car. I think there are some differences that will definitely be in that race from that rule, but in the end, if you wreck on Lap 5 … what’s the difference?”

Here is how the day will unfold this weekend at Bristol.

  • Forty-two cars will attempt to qualify for the 40 total spots in the two heat races.
  • The 40 cars that qualify will be split into two fields of 20. Odd-numbered qualifiers in one heat race and even-numbered qualifiers in the other.
  • During the first 50-lap heat, the cars competing in the second heat will impounded.
  • Each heat race will go the scheduled distance. There are no overtime rules in place.
  • Following the first heat, there will be a 15-minute break.
  • A 20-minute break follows the second 50-lap heat.
  • The four cars eligible for the Dash 4 Cash will have red stickers placed on their windshields to be identified.
  • The main event will be run.

The heat races at all four tracks will not be 50 laps each. NASCAR has attempted to make the distance of the two heat races and the main equal to the distance in each race at the respective tracks last season. The only exception will be Richmond, which will be 250 kilometers.

“We tried to make these fit in a two-and-a-half hour window,” Auton said. “If you talk to the fans out there, a two-and-a-half hour window for an Xfinity Series race, start to finish when it comes on TV till they take the checkered flag, is a good fit.”

Bristol will feature two 50-lap heats and a 200-lap main. Richmond will have 35-lap heats and a 140-lap main. At Dover, it will be 40-lap heats and a 120-lap main. The finale at Indianapolis has 20-lap heats and a 60-lap main.