NASCAR has announced a new points system for its top three series, replacing the method used for the past 35 years. The new system awards 43 points to the winner of each race, with 42 for second, down to one point for 43rd and last in each race. The old system awarded 175 points for a win with a five-point bonus to any driver who lead a lap and a further five-point bonus to the driver leading the most laps. The new system gives three bonus points to the race winner and one more bonus point for leading any laps, plus an additional bonus point if the race winner leads the most laps in a race – meaning they can score a maximum of 48 points. “We are simplifying the points system to one that is much easier to understand,” said NASCAR’s chairman and CEO Brian France (below). “Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow.”
NASCAR will also now run an extended 12-driver ‘Chase for the Cup’ end-of-season playoff. The top 10 drivers in the points following 26 rounds will continue to earn Chase berths, but positions 11 and 12 will be ‘wildcard’ qualifiers, drivers ranked outside the top 10 with the most victories up to that point (providing they’re still in the top 20 in the points). The top 10 Chase drivers will continue to be seeded based on victories during the first 26 races, with each win worth three bonus points. The wildcard drivers will not receive bonus points for wins and will be seeded 11th and 12th respectively. NASCAR says this move is aimed at rewarding winning and consistency during the regular season.
“The fans tell us that winning matters the most to them, so we’re combining the tradition of consistency in our sport with the excitement that comes along with winning,” said France. “This makes every race count leading up to the 26th race of the season at Richmond, when we set the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.”
NASCAR has also changed its qualifying order, which will now be based on slowest-to-fastest practice speeds. If bad weather cancels qualifying, practice speeds rather than championship points will determine the final starting line-up. If bad weather cancels all practice sessions, the starting line-up will be based on championship points.
Also, Sprint Cup teams are now allowed five sets of tyres for practice and qualifying instead of six. They must return four of those sets to Goodyear in order to receive their race allotment, and may keep one set of practice/qualifying tyres.
A more efficient fuelling system introduced in last year’s Truck Series eliminates the catch-can man, considered the most vulnerable pitcrew member. Teams will now use six rather than seven over-the-wall pitcrew members. This year’s Sprint Cup cars will also feature more individual nose treatments to help appeal to fans and aid manufacturer identity.
Finally, NASCAR has introduced E15 ethanol this year and considered moving from carburettors to fuel injection, but the switch to fuel injection has been put off until 2012.