NASCAR is making sweeping changes to the formats of races in 2017 and adding more bonus points to the Chase (which is no longer called the Chase, but more on that later) for drivers who succeed in the regular season.
The changes are a bit complicated, so stick with us:
Every Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series race will consist of three segments called “stages.” The drivers who finish in the top 10 of each of the first two segments will receive points while the finishing order at the end of the third and final stage will be the race’s finishing order. The winner of the third segment is the race winner and will get 40 points.
Oh, the word “Chase” to describe the final 10 races of the Cup Series season is gone, too. We’ve got to learn to stop using it. In its place is simply “Playoffs,” a term that will also be used to describe the elimination-style Chase format in the Xfinity and Truck Series.
Each regular-season race win will be worth five bonus points to start the playoffs. In 2016, drivers got three points at the beginning of the Chase for each win in the regular season. A segment win will be worth one Playoff bonus point.
The first segment will be the first 25 percent of the race while the second segment will be the second 25 percent. Each segment will end with a caution flag. The cautions will give the races predetermined breaks in the action to help Fox and NBC air as many commercials as possible under yellow flag conditions.
Bonus points are also handed out for the drivers in the top 10 in the points standings at the end of the regular season. The driver who is leading the points standings at the end of the first 26 races in the Cup Series will receive 15 points while the other drivers in the top 10 will also receive bonus points for the Chase.
And, most importantly, those bonus points will carry over into the first three rounds of the playoffs. In the old format, the bonus points disappeared after the first round and the 12 drivers remaining in the second round all started with the same points total.
Yeah, this is pretty complicated. There’s definitely going to be a learning curve for hardcore and casual race fans as the new format is implemented throughout the season.
• The winner of a segment receives 10 points while the driver in 10th receives a point. The driver who wins a race receives 40 points, while second receives 35 points and third receives 34. The driver finishing 35th gets two points while those finishing 36th-40th each get a single point.
This means that if a driver wins both segments and the race, he receives 60 points. There are no longer bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps.
• While the driver who finishes at the top of the regular season standings gets 15 points, second gets 10 points, third gets eight, fourth gets seventh and so on through 10th place. If a driver, say, Jimmie Johnson, wins four races in the regular season (5 points each), wins 15 segments (1 point each) and finishes the regular season third in the points standings, he’ll start the Chase with 43 bonus points.
Those 43 points will be added to Johnson’s point total at the beginning of the second and third rounds if he advances. If he wins a race in the first round of the playoffs to guarantee his advancement into the second round, he’ll have another five points tacked on to his total. So he’d start the second round with 48 bonus points while a driver who might have finished the regular season outside the top 10 in points and didn’t win a race or a segment could start the second round with no bonus points.
• The format of the Chase – again, now known as the playoffs – is otherwise unchanged. Sixteen drivers will make the playoffs. All drivers with a win in the first 26 races will be included and the other spots will be filled by the drivers with the most points. Twelve drivers will advance to the second round of the Chase and eight will advance to the third round. Four drivers will move on from the third round of the Chase to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the highest finisher of the four wins the championship.
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