CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR has once again altered the Championship Chase format of its top circuit, the Sprint Cup, and this year’s change is much more than a little tinkering.
Starting this season, the Chase will increase from 12 to 16 teams at the beginning, but by the final race it will be down to four teams. The new changes bring about a major emphasis on winning in the 26-race “regular season.”
Per NASCAR’S official release, the highlights of the new Chase format are:
- Following the first 26 races, the 15 drivers with the most individual wins will earn a spot in the newly named NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase Grid. The 16th position will go to the points leader after race 26, provided the driver does not have a victory in any of the previous races. These 16 drivers will advance to a 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
- The 10 races will be split into four rounds. The first round (races 27-29) will be known as the “Challenger Round”, the second (30-32) the “Contender Round”, the third (33-35) the “Eliminator Round”, and the final round (36) the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
- Four drivers will be eliminated every round, with the final round being a winner-take-all race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.
- Any driver who wins a race in the Challenger Round will automatically advance to the Contender Round. The drivers with the four lowest point totals after races 27-29 will be eliminated from Sprint Cup contention. The 12 drivers who advance will have their points reset to 3,000.
- Any driver who wins a race in the Contender Round will automatically advance to the Elimination Round. The drivers with the four lowest point totals at the end of the Contender Round races will be eliminated. Eight drivers will advance to the Elimination Round and have their points reset to 4,000.
- Any driver who wins a race in the Elimination Round will automatically advance to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship race. The drivers with the four lowest point totals will once again be eliminated. The final four drivers will move on to the final round and have their points reset to 5,000.
- The final four drivers will race in the 36th and final race of the season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. The Cup winner will be based solely on finishing position in the final race.
- Eliminated drivers will have their point totals readjusted to the normal point format. With this adjustment, all drivers not in the hunt for the championship will be able to compete for the best possible season finish, with fifth place being the highest remaining standing.
“We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race – all of which is exactly what fans want,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. “The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be thrilling, easy to understand and help drive our sport’s competition to a whole new level.”