In The Tracks...
NASCAR Sets the Stage for 2017
January 23, 2017

NASCAR's Executive VP & Chief Racing Development Officer, Steve O'Donnell, described the new three stage racing format and then joined the panel to answer questions from the press on hand for the announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Convention Center.

The panel on hand consisted of broadcasters from FOX Sports, Jeff Gordon and NBC Sports, Jeff Burton. There representing the drivers were Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Kesselowski. Representing the race tracks were Joie Chitwood III, Chief Operating Officer of Int'l Speedway Corporation, and Marcus Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Speedway Motorsports. The teams were represented by Steve Newmark, Team President of Roush Fenway Racing, Brett Frood, Team Vice President of Stewart-Haas Racing, Marshall Carlson, Team President of Hendrick Motorsports, and Dave Alpern, Team President of Joe Gibbs Racing.

So, now to the new system, which will be applied to all three of NASCAR's major series, Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series. First, the good news, the trucks will no longer have the caution clock. Also gone are the bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps during a race. Also, the name Chase is gone for the more known term, the playoffs.

The new system will break the races into two equal first and second stages. The length of these two stages will be announced ahead of time to allow teams to strategize. The final and third stage will be the remainder of the race distance. Stages 1 and 2 may end under caution if necessary. The winner of the first two stages and the crew chief will be interviewed during the caution for the end of the stage. As before the overall winner of the race will be the event winner and visit victory lane for the normal ceremony.

Other notes about the races, should the race be rain shortened, it would be official at the end of stage 2. They would then award stage 2 points and the end of the race points. If a race goes beyond the end of stage 2 then however much of the final stage they complete before weather ends the race early would be the distance of the final stage. The starting orders for stages 2 and 3 will be how the teams exit the pits following the previous stage.
2017 Point System Enhancements
1 playoff point to winner of stage 1
1 playoff point to winner of stage 2
5 playoff points to race winner
Stage Finishing Regular Points
1st place - 10 pts.6th place - 5 pts.
2nd place - 9 pts.7th place - 4 pts.
3rd place - 8 pts.8th place - 3 pts.
4th place - 7 pts.9th place - 2 pts.
5th place - 6 pts.10th place - 1 pt.
End of Regular Season Playoff Points
1st place - 15 pts.6th place - 5 pts.
2nd place - 10 pts.7th place - 4 pts.
3rd place - 8 pts.8th place - 3 pts.
4th place - 7 pts.9th place - 2 pts.
5th place - 6 pts.10th place - 1 pt.
Regular Race Finishing Points
40 points to winner back at 1 point intervals
to 1 point for 40th place, same as 2016 season.

Now the points, stay with me it gets confusing here. First, the race winner still gets 40 points with second getting 39, third 38 and so on back to 40th who gets 1 point just as they did in 2016. These are considered regular season race points. What is new is that for stages 1 and 2, the winner gets 10 points, second gets 9 and so on back to 10th place who gets one point. Finally, the Duels at Daytona will be considered stages and the top ten will get regular season points. That's the regular season points.

The playoff points are basically the same as bonus points. The winners of the first and second stages each get 1 playoff point. The winners of the Duels at Daytona however will not get the 1 playoff point for winning. The winner of the race/third stage gets 5 playoff points. At the end of the regular season (after race 26 for the Cup Series), the point leader will be named the regular season champion and receive 15 playoff points, second place will get 10 playoff points, third place will get 8 playoff points, fourth gets 7 playoff points and on back one point less each back to tenth place who gets 1 playoff point.

I am not sure about the playoff seeding points and whether they will reset as they have in the past for each round of the playoffs, but they did say much of the former Chase setup will continue in the playoffs and they will eliminate teams as they did with the Chase after each round with the final round being a winner takes the championship at Homestead. They did say the playoff points will continue to build through the playoffs to Homestead.

What does all this do for the strategy?

Teams will no longer want to hang at the back on the restrictor plate races as they will want to be in the top ten if not winning each stage. Teams will want to win the stages at the other tracks as well and get the playoff points when possible. Jeff Burton spoke of races having more racing moments, because the teams will be incentivized to race harder to win the stages. Pit strategy to get in place to win stages and pit crews will need to have error free pit stops as the shorter stages will leave them too little time to overcome them on the track before the end of the stage.

Brad Kesselowski noted that the fans that want to get up and go get another bowl of chips during the race won't want to leave the TV.

The track representatives were commenting about how it would benefit those at the track. After attending races in the past, I know the fans usually learn things after the race that explain much as the cars drown out the public address systems. This would be hard to overcome for the tracks, but I don't see how this new system would affect those attending. Perhaps message boards at the track would be a help to announce penalties, stage finishing orders, etc.

Another thing to note is the 29 lap caution for scoring confusion at Martinsville's Fall race last year. With short stage racing this will not be acceptable as O'Donnell did say that all caution laps during the race will count, even those at the conclusion of each stage.

We will have to wait and see whether the result is better for the sport, but if needed here's some things you can do with your weekend if you disapprove. You can please your nagging wife up and mow the lawn, buy a boat and spend the weekend out on the lake or bay, take up golf, watch golf on TV, watch a baseball or hockey game until football starts back up, join a bowling league, or American Pickers is usually on the History Channel on Sundays.

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