Changes Likely For Nextel Cup Series Championship in 2007

by Pete McCole

June 30, 2006

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NASCAR Chairman Brian France says the sanctioning body is looking into possible changes for the 2007 Nextel Cup season, including changes to the 10-race Chase For The Nextel Cup.

At a media gathering Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, France said several ideas have been brought up for discussion, including adjusting the number of participants in the Chase as well a possible change in the points awarded over the final 10 races.

“I've always said about the Chase was that we needed a few years under our belt to see how it evolved, to change the strategy, see how the actual formula that we have, see how it really works,” said France. “Now we're in our third year, starting to get that sense, and my view is, we will make some adjustments going into 2007. It's a natural time to do that.

“Everything we'll be looking at has been brought up by various people in the last couple years. We'll be looking at, is ten the right number, as an example. We'll be looking at the 400-point margin. We'll be thinking about the points structure; you know, should we add a little more to the win in the final ten.”

NASCAR created the Chase For The Nextel Cup for the 2004 season, in an attempt to emulate the playoff excitement of other big-league sports such as the NFL and NBA.

Under the current format, only the top 10 in points at the conclusion of the 26th race is eligible to make the 10-race Chase For The Nextel Cup. Any driver outside the top 10 but within 400 points of the leader is also eligible, but in the two years since the Chase format was implemented, no one outside the top 10 in points have qualified for the Chase.

“We always thought that more than ten might get in. It hasn't happened yet,” said France. “So we'll look at that 400 point mark.

“Is ten the number? Is 12 the number? Would we like to see the 400 point issue come into play? I think it would be interesting. It would be nice to see, call it a wild card if you will, some wild card teams jump in. I think that would add to the drama and excitement. So we'll have to see how that plays out, and if we want to make that more attainable in the future, that's what we'll be working on.”

France stressed that any tweaking done to the Chase would be minor, rather than major changes.

“Seeing what has gone across my desk now from people internally and race fans and just different places we get ideas from, including the media, some of them we like, but we're sort of playing with,” France said. “But I want to say, changes, I always distinguish changes are one thing; adjustments are another. Adjustments tend to be smaller, tend to be less dramatic, and that's kind of what we're looking at. We're looking at adjustments, not changes”

NASCAR already has a full plate of new players joining the series for 2007, including new broadcasting partners in ABC, ESPN and Sirius Satellite Radio; a new car manufacturer with Toyota racing full-time in the Cup Series; and possibly a new name – coinciding with Sprint’s merger with series sponsor Nextel.

And of course there is the Car of Tomorrow - NASCAR’s technological centerpiece into the future of stock racing – that will make its debut at selected races in 2007.

“We made some adjustments with the current car to do the best we can, but we think we're going to make a major leap forward and bring back more of the slingshot passing and the drafting and the things that I think we see more of in the trucks than we do in any other division,” said France. “We really believe that that's the right thing to do, not only for next year or two years down the road, but five years, ten years, something we can build around.

“So you do have a lot of changes, and that's kind of why we tried, other than the tire testing policies and some things, we've tried to have some moderate year here to anticipate that we know a lot of things are going to move around in '07.”

NASCAR is also still looking into expanding into the Northeast, including a possible Busch Series race in Montreal, Canada.

”I don't know that it will happen next year, but my hope is that we're going to figure out the Busch Series in Montreal,” France said. “That's a great venue. We're having good success, as you know, down south. So my hope is that, because we have a big fan base in Canada…we would like to take a live event north of the border.”

NASCAR’s latest foray into the Northeast – a proposed racetrack on Staten Island in New York City - appears to be a dead issue after city commissioners there came out against the proposal in hearings held over the last few months.

Additional hearings on the proposed 80,000-seat track are planned, but no dates have been set.

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