NASCAR considering changes to the Chase, points system (3rd Update)

UPDATE #3 NASCAR is planning a "vast restructuring of the points system" in the Sprint Cup Series that would "greatly emphasize winning races and feature eliminations" in the Chase for the Cup, according to sources cited by Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. In addition to "expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, a win in the season’s first 26 races would virtually ensure a driver entry into the championship Chase." If there were "more than 16 winners, the 16 with the most wins and highest in points would gain entry." Once the Chase field was set, a "round of eliminations — similar to the NCAA tournament — would take place after the third, sixth and ninth race of the Chase, culminating with the championship determined by a winner-takes-all season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway." Should 16 drivers not win races, the remaining slots "would be filled by the drivers highest in points." NASCAR VP & Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes in a statement said, "NASCAR has begun the process of briefing key industry stakeholders on potential concepts to evolve its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format. This dialogue is the final phase of a multi-year process that has included the review of extensive fan research, partner and industry feedback and other data-driven insights." CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

Driver Denny Hamlin on his Twitter feed wrote, "This points system change is going to be a really good thing. Trust in it and watch how exciting each Chase race is going to be." In response to the tweet, '12 Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski said that he "agreed with Hamlin." But the OBSERVER's Utter noted fans' reactions to the proposed changes "took opposite tacks — social media posts tended to be negative, while callers on Sirius' NASCAR radio shows Friday night and Saturday overwhelmingly supported the changes." CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote NASCAR's "spin will try to convince everyone that a sport that stands still, that doesn't change, is a sport that falls behind." But a sport that "changes its fabric so often … is a desperate sport, an insecure sport trying to manufacture a recipe for excitement instead of organically relying on its natural flavor." The proposed points system would "move NASCAR from professional sport to professional gimmickry." It would "cheapen the sport’s championship," and would "render totally worthless any comparison to previous championship races and formats." The new system would "just celebrate mediocrity even more while trying to manufacture an exciting finale." But NASCAR’s problem "isn't the Chase," but rather an "economic model that requires teams to hire not the best talent, but the best sponsored talent, with limited vendors for equipment that stunts competition, coupled with the inability to create an exciting game thanks to a mechanical exercise in the hands of engineers instead of drivers." SPORTINGNEWS.com

SPORTS ON EARTH's Matt Crossman wrote after "spending much of the early 2000s bragging about how hot it was," NASCAR has since "cooled off." So now after "years of declines in attendance, TV ratings and the ever-sought, ever-elusive buzz, NASCAR is trying desperately to get back to where it was." The "problem is, it was never there in the first place." NASCAR officials "spend too much time concentrating on what will make NASCAR more popular and not enough time on what will make it better." Instead of "asking themselves, 'is changing the points system a good idea?' NASCAR officials ask themselves, 'will people pay more attention to us if we do this?'" SPORTSONEARTH.com

01/18/14 There has been a lot of speculation recently that indicates some highly significant and sweeping changes could be coming regarding the points format used for NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

The first indication of these changes came right after the arrival of the new year and stemmed from comments made by NASCAR Chairman Brian France during an interview with the "Motor Racing Network".

At that time France indicated a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the current Sprint Cup championship's point structure and said he felt there was a way to modify the system that would place greater importance on winning races to determine the champion.

Needless to say, those comments set off a firestorm of speculation that said changes to the Chase format was forthcoming. That firestorm was greatly enhanced by a January 17th article in the "Charlotte Observer" that indicated the proposed changes could be even more sweeping than originally projected.

The major bullet points for the rumored change are as follows:

-The new format will expand from the current 12 teams to 16.

-Winning races during the regular points season, races one through 26, will become a high priority regarding which drivers makes the Chase line up.

-Full time series drivers who won at least one race during the regular season scheduled will be seeded first in the championship line up.

-In the event that the first 26 races does not produce 16 winners, then the remainder of the Chase line up will be seeded based on driver's points. It should be noted that this particular scenario is very possible. There were only 13 different winners during the first 26 races of the 2013 season.

-Once the official Chase line is set, NASCAR will employ the use of a series of elimination rounds somewhat similar to the process used by college sports. At the conclusion of Chase races number three, six and nine, four drivers from each of those races will be officially eliminated from the post season championship run.

-The points will be reset, to an even amount, for the remaining four drivers prior to the tenth, and final, Chase event which will be held at the Homestead Miami Speedway on November 16th.

-This final four man runoff will employ a winner take all format. The driver who accumulates the most points in the season finale will become the 2014 Sprint Cup champion.

Regarding the status of these rumored changes, a January 17th press release, from NASCAR Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes, read as follows:

"NASCAR has begun the process of briefing key industry stakeholders on potential concepts to evolve its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format. This dialogue is the final phase of a multi-year process that has included the review of extensive fan research, partner and industry feedback and other data-driven insights. NASCAR has no plans to comment further until the stakeholder discussions are complete. We hope to announce any potential changes for the 2014 season to our media and fans very soon."

There has been further speculation that says this announcement could come as early as January 30th. Dave Grayson reporting

01/18/14 NASCAR Statement: "NASCAR has begun the process of briefing key industry stakeholders on potential concepts to evolve its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format. This dialogue is the final phase of a multi-year process that has included the review of extensive fan research, partner and industry feedback and other data-driven insights. NASCAR has no plans to comment further until the stakeholder discussions are complete. We hope to announce any potential changes for the 2014 season to our media and fans very soon."

01/18/14 NASCAR is planning a vast restructuring of the points system in its premier Sprint Cup Series that would greatly emphasize winning races and feature eliminations in its Chase playoff system, according to multiple sources briefed on the plan this week. In addition to expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, a win in the season's first 26 races would virtually ensure a driver entry into the championship Chase. If there were more than 16 winners, the 16 with the most wins and highest in points would gain entry.

Once the Chase field was set, a round of eliminations – similar to the NCAA tournament – would take place after the third, sixth and ninth race of the Chase, culminating with the championship determined by a winner-takes-all season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Under the proposed system – which could still change before an expected announcement later this month – winning would become virtually a necessity to make the Chase and win the championship.

According to sources briefed on the proposal on Friday, 16 teams would make the Chase, with positions first going to full-time series contenders who won a race through the first 26 races of the season. Should 16 drivers not win races, the remaining slots would be filled by the drivers highest in points.
Once the field is set for the Chase and re-seeded, the four lowest in points among Chase contenders would be eliminated from title contention after the third, sixth and ninth race in the Chase. The four remaining contenders would enter the season finale reset with the same amount of points. The driver who earned the most points in the season finale would be the series champion.

Participants have been told changes could still occur in the format but the proposal addressed this week was the direction NASCAR was now seemingly headed. Charlotte Observer

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