NASCAR hopes to revitalize stagnant base with new points format – Orlando Sentinel
DAYTONA BEACH — The 2017 NASCAR season is one of Hope and Change.
Please don’t misconstrue this as a political reference. It is strictly business: Important business for everyone in NASCAR from suits in the office buildings to firesuits inside the cars.
NASCAR dramatically altered its playoff format in the off-season, and the big reveal comes this week at Daytona International Speedway. It’s the Big One, in so many ways.
Biggest race. Biggest wrecks. And a big-time move to re-engage fans — old ones left behind, with a sprinkle of new-bloods.
“I don’t know what all is going to happen,” said Darrell Waltrip, a three-time Cup season champion and a now FOX Sports analyst, encapsulating the murky circumstances.
To review, industry leaders — including a handful of drivers — came together during the off-season and blew up the Chase format. Races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series now will consist of three stages, with championship implications in each stage.
The new format also will award an additional playoff point to each winner in the first two stages, and the race winner will receive five additional postseason points. So get those calculators out for the Daytona 500 (as well as the qualifying races).
The revamped system could lead to a huge weekend for a driver with a dominant car. For the first time, the Duels this Thursday night will have an added value of 10 regular-season points for a win. Sunday’s Daytona 500 brings the potential to earn a total of 70 regular-season-standings points for the weekend: A Duels victory (10) and a 500 triumph (40) along with capturing both segments (10 each). Other races on the schedule will offer a maximum of 60 points.
Points will continue to be accrued through the first 26 races, and will carry over for the 16 drivers who qualify for the playoffs that consist of the last 10 races of the season. The operative number remains at four in a winner-take-all-format in Homestead in November.
“It will be fun to watch the teams get their feet wet with this new format and figure out how to capitalize on it before the next guy does,” Waltrip said. “Great minds are breaking it down right now, as they do anytime something new is introduced.
“What exactly that will look like, I doubt anyone knows yet. The new format will take a little adjustment for all of us — drivers, media and the crews.”
Waltrip and others in the loop say it will take about five races into the season before everyone — from the drivers to the fans — sort it out and decide whether the new format is the Next Great Thing or the next New Coke.
NASCAR needs a pick-me-up, and maybe a hopeful metaphor is the new Cup Series title sponsor, Monster Energy.
There’s been a lot of noise from traditional fans over the last few weeks since the changes were announced. That’s a key demographic. NASCAR can’t afford to keep losing fans, whether it’s live or in front of the TV set.
There’s also been a smattering of complaints from fans that the outfits worn by the Monster Energy girls at Daytona are too sexy and revealing.
That won’t make or break NASCAR. But it’s a bit of collateral damage for a sport that needs to get its groove back, not just on the track.
“You may not like it because you want don’t want it to be different than when you watched David Pearson and Richard Petty battle,” said former veteran driver Jeff Burton, now a racing analyst with NBC Sports. “If that’s what you want, anything other than that you’re not going to like. I’m not saying that’s wrong. but would it have been more fun to watch Richard Petty and David Pearson battle with this?
“I would say this makes it better because it would have given them more reason to race each other.”
So Hope and Change it is. Stay tuned everyone.
Inclement weather already botched Daytona’s Speedweeks schedule, with the Advance Auto Parts Clash moved from Saturday night to mid-day Sunday.
And there’s more potential bad weather on the horizon. Thursday’s forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms (90 percent chance), which would very likely put a damper on the qualifying races set for Thursday night.
The Air Titans will be on standby once again, hoping everyone can go racing at Daytona International Speedway.
The good news: All clear, for the moment, this weekend.
Kids 12 and under will get in free to all NASCAR Xfinity Series and all Camping World Series races this season as part Kids Drive NASCAR Initiative.
Fans can get more information at nascar.com/kidstix.
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