Charlotte, N.C. • Say goodbye to the NASCAR era when a driver, fresh off a satisfying, top-10 finish, climbs from the car and raves about what a good points day it was.
Winning is all that matters under the latest and most radical change to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
NASCAR’s overhauled championship format announced Thursday is a 16-driver, winner-take-all elimination system designed to reward "the most worthy, battle-tested" driver at the end of the season.
"Riding around and being pleased because the (previous) format rewards consistency, those days are going to be pretty much over," NASCAR Chairman Brian France said.
The field, expanded from 12 to 16 drivers, will be whittled down to a final four through eliminations after every three races of the 10-race Chase. The remaining four drivers will go into the season finale with an equal chance to win the championship: The first of the four to cross the finish line will be crowned Sprint Cup champion.
"No math. No bonus points. It’s as simple as it gets," France said.
It’s the fourth change to either the points or championship format since France created the Chase in 2004. For 28 years prior to the Chase, consistency reigned as the champion was the driver with the most points at the end of the season. That ended a year after Matt Kenseth won the 2003 title with a single victory, and France began his pursuit of creating "Game 7 moments." Along the way, he has pushed his agenda of wanting aggressive drivers chasing wins.
He’ll get that under the new format, which makes settling for points pretty much pointless. Why? Because a win in the 26-race regular season virtually guarantees a berth in the Chase.
Last August, Brad Keselowski chased Kyle Busch around Watkins Glen and declined to aggressively move his rival out of the way. Keselowski settled for second, racing for a good points day and declining to inflame his touchy relationship with Busch. But in doing so, he failed to win a regular-season race and missed the Chase.
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