Roger Diez: It’s official NASCAR has new playoff format
For the Nevada Appeal
Last week I wrote about the proposal floated by NASCAR to do more than “tweak” the championship format for the Sprint Cup. Well, it is now official. This year there will be 16 drivers in the Chase for the Championship – at least in the beginning. A win in one of the first 26 races of the season will pretty well lock a driver into the Chase, unless there are 17 or more winners. Also, the 16th place will be reserved for the points leader after 26 races if he or she does not have a win. After three Chase races, the championship eligible field will be narrowed to 12, and cut down to eight after the next three. And for the final race at Homestead, only four drivers will be eligible in a winner-take-all-format. OK, I agree with NASCAR CEO Brian France that this format will place more emphasis on winning. As for making it easier for the fans to understand, I have my doubts. At least they have dealt with the possibility of a tie at Homestead by eliminating bonus points for that one race. Fan reaction to the change has been decidedly mixed, with some loving it and others swearing to never attend or watch a NASCAR race again.
Not so controversial is the new qualifying procedure, which applies to all three of NASCAR’s national series — Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Trucks. Borrowing from Formula One’s knockout qualifying format, teams at tracks of over 1.25 miles will get three rounds. The first round will be a 25-minute session for all entrants. The second round is a 10-minute session for the fastest 24 from the first session, with the remainder starting in positions 25 to 43 in order of their fastest times. The final 5-minute round will be for the fastest 12 cars from session two, and it will be the run for the Coors Light pole position. For tracks less than 1.25 miles in length, there will be two rounds of qualifying, a 30-minute session for all entrants and a 10-minute pole run for the fastest 12. There will be a 5-minute break between sessions, and adjustments to the cars will only be allowed during those breaks, and only on pit road. I hope that the excitement of the final session run for the pole equals the excitement of the Formula 1 Q3 session. It will certainly alleviate the boredom of the long, single car qualifying sessions that NASCAR has used for years.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona last weekend provided an exciting finish following a late-race caution that was as bogus as any NASCAR phantom caution I can recall. Nevertheless, the Action Express Corvette Prototype prevailed, and Sebastien Bourdais added another major accomplishment to his already impressive resume.
It has been 10 years since a driver attempted the Memorial Day “double”, racing in both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Only three drivers have accomplished the feat; Tony Stewart, John Andretti, and Robby Gordon. But we may see a fourth driver try for the 1,100 mile marathon this year. Kurt Busch says that he is 70 percent sure that he will make the attempt. He has the blessing of team owners Stewart and Gene Haas, and has already tested an Indy car with Andretti Autosport. Busch also has a second as yet unnamed team as a backup, most probably either Penske or Ganassi.
Finally, I spoke with Mackena Bell on Friday about her plans for 2014. She is no longer with Revolution Racing and is trying to put together some sponsorship deals to run this year. If you know of any companies that want to sponsor a very accomplished racer and wonderful spokesperson for any business, contact her through Facebook.