U.S.

NASCAR Completely Revamps Championship Rules

With the new structure, 1st place finishes become more important, and drivers will have to survive playoff-like elimination races.

NASCAR Completely Revamps Championship Rules
Flickr / The U.S. Army
SMS

‚ÄčA rule change announced by NASCAR Thursday could’ve been inspired by the ever-so-competitive Ricky Bobby: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Under a new championship structure, 15 drivers will qualify for a 12-race playoff based on the number of first place finishes, with one final spot going to the regular season points leader. (Via NASCAR)

The top drivers will slowly be eliminated over nine races, based on both top finishes and points, until four are left for the winner-take-all finale in Miami. (Via NASCAR)

The massive overhaul emphasizes first place above all else, and NASCAR CEO Brian France thinks it’ll increase the chances of every driver.

He said the new system will, “Expand opportunities for more drivers to compete for the championship while ultimately rewarding the most worthy, battle-tested champion.” (Via Charlotte Observer)

With the sport almost completely ditching the points system in place since 2007, the reaction is mixed. 

Former champion Jeff Gordon tweeted his endorsement, saying, “Winning has always been important in the NASCAR Sprint Cup but wow, it just became the way to win the championship! Exciting!”

But others aren’t as keen. Columnist Jeff Gluck called the change a nuclear option, saying, It doesn't get more extreme than a one-race playoff – and if it doesn't work, there's nowhere else to go in terms of a format.”

And 2009 Series champion Kyle Busch slammed the changes for the assumption drivers would change how they race.

If you can tell me that we don't want to win every single Chase race throughout the Chase, you're kidding yourself. It fries me that NASCAR in itself can tell you that you don't race hard every week."

As for the fans, an ESPN SportsNation poll shows the majority are happy with the changes. The new race season starts February 15th.