NASCAR adds chase format for other series | NevadaAppeal.com

NASCAR adds chase format for other series

With the start of the season mere weeks away, NASCAR announced some big changes for 2016 last week. The biggest change is the addition of a Chase format in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series. The format is a modification of the Sprint Cup Chase, which has provided high drama and not coincidentally increased TV ratings over the past two years. At the announcement, NASCAR Chairman Brian France stated, “Winning never has been this important, and the excitement generated the past two seasons in the Sprint Cup Series has led to this implementation of the Chase format in all three national series.”

•••

The Xfinity Series Chase will feature seven races with 12 drivers, and two elimination rounds leading to the final 4-driver shootout at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As in the Sprint Cup Chase, a win during the regular season guarantees a spot in the Chase, provided the driver is in the top-30 in points and has attempted to qualify in all the races leading up to the Chase. The remaining slots will be determined by point standings, but we can expect a fair number of drivers will qualify on points, given the number of Xfinity races that are won by Sprint Cup regulars (who can’t compete for the Xfinity championship). Four drivers will be eliminated after the “Round of Twelve” consisting of races at Kentucky, Dover, and Charlotte. The “Round of Eight” at Kansas, Texas, and Phoenix will determine the four drivers that will advance to the finale, where the highest finisher will win the championship. Winners in each round will automatically advance, with the remaining slots determined by points.

•••

Eight drivers will participate in the Camping World Truck Chase, with the same criteria for being included (a win/top 50 in points, or in the top 8 in the standings). There will be two elimination rounds, and the “Round of Eight” will run at New Hampshire, Las Vegas, and Talladega. This round will eliminate two drivers under the same criteria for advancing as in the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Chase rules. The “Round of Six” at Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix will determine the drivers who will compete at Homestead in the final race.

•••

If you recall the furor that accompanied the inauguration of the Chase format back in 2004, I don’t expect much outcry at this development. The Sprint Cup Chase is now well-established, and after a number of tweaks over the years, NASCAR seems to have hit on the ultimate format. It was almost inevitable that it would migrate down to the two lower-tier organizations.

•••

However, I expect a lot more outcry over the new addition to the Camping World Truck Series rule instituting a “caution clock.” I, and probably a lot of other people, consider it another step in the WWE-ization of NASCAR. A 20- minute clock will begin to count down at the start of every green flag run. If there’s no caution in 20 minutes, an artificial caution will be thrown, drivers can make pit stops, and the field will bunch up for a restart. No “lucky dog” will be awarded if the caution comes out because the clock has expired. The caution clock will not be used in the final 20 laps of a race (the final 10 at Pocono and Montreal). So after years of “phantom” debris cautions, NASCAR has finally come out of the closet and openly admitted to interfering with the race outcome by throwing an unnecessary caution. And if it improves ratings or ticket sales, you can bet we’ll see it in the Xfinity and Sprint Cup series before long.

•••

NASCAR has also made a minor tweak to the Dash 4 Cash program. The four races in the program will run at Bristol and Richmond in April, Dover in May, and Indy in July. The new format consists of two heats and a main, with $100,000 going to an eligible driver who wins the main. Two Dash for Cash main victories will count as a win in qualifying for a Chase berth.