The sport’s new playoff format transforms the fall race at Dover International Speedway into an elimination event.
In an effort to put an emphasis on the importance of winning races instead of racing for points, NASCAR leaders announced a major overhaul of how the sport crowns its champion.
Under the new format, the ten race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be expanded from 12 drivers to 16. Drivers who win a race in the first 26 races of the season will be all but guaranteed a spot in the Chase. If there are fewer than 16 separate winners, the field will be filled out by the winless drivers with highest points.
The Chase will now feature four separate rounds with the field gradually trimmed from 16 to a champion over the course of those rounds.
The first round will feature all 16 contenders starting at Chicago, then moving to New Hampshire and ending in Dover. A win by a championship eligible driver would automatically guarantee them to advance to the next round. Dover’s status as the final race in the first round of the new elimination format should draw more attention and should make for a more exciting race.
“As for the 10-race Chase format, the changes will certainly be good for Dover in September,” said Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Motorsports. “The eliminations should create the same level of excitement we just witnessed in the recent NFL playoffs. The fans will love this.”
The NASCAR season officially gets underway with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 23. The first Sprint Cup race of the season at Dover International Speedway will be on June 1. The second race at Dover will be Sept. 28.