Charlotte, NC - NASCAR has again made changes to the points system for all three of their top national series in the hopes of giving the drivers more to race for throughout the season, and give the fans more to watch in the wake of falling ratings and attendance figures.
First, races will be divided into three stages each, with the number of laps in each stage determined in advance according to the race length and the venue. The top 10 drivers in each of the first two segments will score championship points—10 to the winner, nine to second place, eight for third, and so forth.
The race winner (the driver who takes the checkered flag at the end of the final stage) gets 40 championship points, second place earns 35, with each succeeding position worth one point less.
In addition—and this is the second major innovation for 2017—the winners of the first two stages earn one playoff point each, and those points are carried forward throughout the first three rounds of the 10-race playoff at the end of the season.
The race winner receives five playoff points, which also carry forward until the season-ending Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where points are reset to zero and the highest-finishing driver among the four who are eligible for the title claims the championship.
The changes involved extensive discussion and collaboration between industry stakeholders, including the sanctioning body, team owners, the drivers and broadcast partners.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the new system is designed to “make racing more compelling on an hour-by-hour basis, week in and week out.”
"There are no off weeks," said Chesterfield's Denny Hamlin. "Every single race matters. ... Not only that, but every lap of every race matters. From our standpoint, you always felt a little bit relaxed once you got a race win, and you would sometimes maybe go into test mode or something. Now with each accomplishment that you have during each given race, whether you're collecting points for the overall regular season or you're trying to collect points through a stage win or a race win, each accomplishment gives your road to Homestead a little bit easier, gives you a little bit of cushion there to be able to get through the playoffs and make it to Homestead. And that's what it's all about for us is making it to Homestead and trying to race for a championship, and I think this format does it for it."
Under the new system, drivers will still have a strong incentive to accumulate playoff points that will carry forward through the first nine races of the playoff, because those points could be critical to advancement.
"I look at races as soon as the plate tracks, especially Talladega, and you might have seen cars that have lagged back in the past," said Brad Keselowski. "You're not going to do that anymore. The single file, high line ride out, those days are gone. And I think that's great. We're going to go out there and we're going to race to a new level that we haven't seen before, and I'm really pumped about being a part of that in the future of this sport."
The term "Chase" is also gone, replaced with "Playoffs" which was just as frequently used by teams, fans and media for the final 10 races of the season. The Playoffs will carry the same elimination format, and winning a race in each of the three segments of the Playoffs will still guarantee a driver a spot in the next round.
NASCAR has eliminated two of the longest running bonues: for leading a single lap and for leading the most laps in each race. In addition, a regular season champ will be crowned after the 26th event of the season, which again will be here at Richmond International Raceway in September.
The number of drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff will remain at 16. Playoff fields in the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series will remain status quo at 12 and eight drivers, respectively