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InTheTracks.com Feature Commentary:
NASCAR 2014: The Chase Gen Four Plus More
February 17, 2014 (Updated March 2, 2014)

NASCAR was busy this off-season developing yet another revision to the Chase for the Championship, a new penalty structure and implementing a new qualifying procedure for most races. In just 10 years the Chase is in its fourth rendition and the Chase field has grown from 10 teams to 16 teams. Along with the new Chase format, NASCAR has developed a 7-tier penalty system called NASCARís Deterrence System. Also, NASCAR has changed qualifying in an effort to speed up the process to avoid as many rain outs and also hopefully make it more entertaining to watch.

Here we'll spell it out in simple English, well, as simple as possible as with most NASCAR rules they are just as complex as Obama Care.

The Chase Gen Four

The first change to the Chase is that we go from 12, well 13 as Jeff Gordon got in on a technicality in 2013, teams in 2013 to 16 teams in 2014. The points will be reset for 16 of the teams in the top 30 of the driver points after 26 races for the following scenarios:
  • From the top 30 in points, the top 16 teams with the most wins.
  • If the point leader is winless, then the point leader and from the top 30 in points, the top 15 teams with the most wins.
  • If there are more than 16 teams with wins then the point leader and from the top 30 in points, the teams with the most wins with the tie breaker being the highest ranking in driver points.
  • If there are fewer than 16 teams with wins then the point leader and from the top 30 in points, the teams with the most wins followed by the highest ranking in driver points of those remaining.
The main concepts are that the point leader is in the Chase, the teams outside the top 30 in points can not make the Chase and wins followed by points will be the determining factor which of the teams from second through 30th make the Chase.

However, wins being the most important concept. In 2013, there were a total of 16 teams with victories to finish the season in the top 30 in points. Since we are talking just 26 races to set the Chase field that would limit most of the winners to just one if we are going to see 16 different winners in 26 races. I would suspect that we may have two or three teams to win more than one race in the first 26.

Making the Chase is only the first 26 races of the season. The final ten races determine the champion. This has changed as well.

After the first three races of the Chase the teams in 13th through 16th will be eliminated from the Chase and the points reset for the remaining 12 teams.

Following the second three races of the Chase, the teams in 9th through 12th will be eliminated from the Chase and the points reset for the remaining 8 teams.

Following the third three races of the Chase, the teams in 5th through 8th will be eliminated from the Chase and the points reset for the remaining 4 teams.

Then, it is off to Homestead for the season finale and to crown one of the four teams champion.

New Elimination Qualifying

There are a few exceptions to the new format for qualifying. One being the Daytona 500 which already has a unique qualifying format. So, the new format for the Cup Series starts with race number 2. The new format has two variations. First, there's a format for tracks longer than 1.25 miles and another for tracks shorter than 1.25 miles.

The tracks over 1.25 miles will use a three session format where the first session is 25 minutes for all teams and the fastest 24 teams advance to the second round. For the Cup Series, the teams outside the top 24 will start the race 25th to 36th based upon their first session speeds. Those outside the top 36th in speeds will be set by owner points provisional positions and if needed the 43rd spot will be a champion's provisional. The N'wide Series will qualify 24th to 30th on speeds and the rest of the field on provisionals. The Truck Series will continue to use provisional spots for those outside the top 25. The second round will be ten minutes and the top 12 advance to the third round of qualifying and starting positions 13 through 24 will be set by those eliminated. The final round would be 5 minutes and set the top 12 positions. Between each session there will be a five minute break.

The tracks under 1.25 miles will use a two session format. The first session will be 30 minutes and the fastest 12 teams will advance to the final session. The eliminated teams will be ordered by speed for positions 13th to 36th based upon their first session speeds. Those outside the top 36th in speeds will be set by owner points provisional positions and if needed the 43rd spot will be a champion's provisional. The N'wide Series will qualify 24th to 30th on speeds and the rest of the field on provisionals. The Truck Series will continue to use provisional spots for those outside the top 25. Following a ten minute break the remaining 12 teams will set the first 12 spots in the field in a ten minute session.

The objective will be to shorten qualifying to avoid bad weather conditions and also to be highly competitive and more engaging to our fans in the stands and those watching on television.

The new format will be used in all three series, not just the Cup Series. The exceptions will be the Daytona 500, all non-points races and the Truck race at Eldora.

NASCARís Deterrence System: The Seven-Tier Penalty System

NASCAR is looking to deter multiple offenders and also better justify their penalties so they will be fair and also not over turned during appeal. Most have described the new system as a 6-tier system, but the system starts with a warning system and then into P1 through P6 levels. Minor infractions will be addressed first with a warning and after multiple warnings the infraction will be addressed as a P1 level penalty. The P6 level penalty would be the highest form of penalty. NASCAR said they would provide the teams of a list of what each level of penalty infractions would fall on the P1 to P6 scale.

The penalty system does not include behavior infractions. They will still be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

NASCAR has provided a list of types of infractions and where they fall on the scale, but not the penalties for each level. Much of the actual penalties will depend on whether it is a repeat infraction.

P1 penalties may result from multiple warnings to the same team.

P2 penalties may include but are not limited to violations such as hollow components, expiration of certain safety certification or improper installation of a safety feature, or minor bracket and fasteners violations.

P3 penalty options may include but are not limited to violations such as unauthorized parts, measurement failures, parts that fail their intended use, or coil spring violation.

P4 level infractions may include but are not limited to violations such as devices that circumvent NASCAR templates and measuring equipment, or unapproved added weight.

P5 level may include but are not limited to violations such as combustion-enhancing additives in the oil, oil filter, air filter element or devices, systems, omissions, etc., that affect the normal airflow over the body.

P6 level may include but are not limited to violations such as affecting the internal workings and performance of the engine, modifying the pre-certified chassis, traction control or affecting EFI or the ECU.

 
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