A sport known for going in circles, NASCAR decided to break away from its circular stereotype and change its championship format, along with other rule changes, this offseason for the Monster Energy cup, NASCAR’s highest level of racing competition.
Before this season, each driver was giving points based on his or her respective finishes in a given race. The higher the finish the more points. Furthermore, bonus points were given to the winner of each race, and to drivers who managed to lead at least one lap.
Before the final 10 races, known as the Chase, the 16 drivers who accumulated the most points throughout the season would compete for the championship.
However, NASCAR has completely overhauled its racing format; an attempt to engage its fan base throughout the race.
NASCAR hopes to accomplish this by splitting races into three segments. The top-10 finishers in segment one will be rewarded additional championship points. The winner of the first two segments with receive one additional playoff (Chase) point, and the race winner will receive five additional playoff points.
After 26 races—10 remaining in the season—the drivers who have accumulated the most points will compete for the Monster Cup Championship.
Unlike previous NASCAR formats, regular season point accumulation matters for drivers making the Chase. Each win and top-10 finish for a driver during the season’s first 26 races will add points to that driver’s playoff point total.
Furthermore, playoff points no longer reset after each Chase round; as they previously had done.
“This format puts a premium on every victory and every in-race position over the course of the season. Each point can eventually result in winning or losing a championship,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. –via NASCAR.com
Along with changes to its regular season and Chase format, NASCAR has changed its concussion testing rules.
Last season at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr crashed resulting in Earnhardt Jr suffering a concussion, causing NASCAR to respond with stricter concussion testing.
Following any crash that results in a driver’s car being sent to the garage, that driver will immediately report to the infield car center for evaluation. Previously, drivers would only go to the infield care center if a driver’s car needed to be towed.
Furthermore, NASCAR will require infield medical staff physicians to use SCAT-3 diagnostic tools for screening head injuries. The program is designed to offer on-site support for neurological evaluations.
“NASCAR has worked very closely with the industry to ensure our concussion protocol reflects emerging best practices in this rapidly developing area of sports medicine,” NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, Jim Cassidy, told msn.com.