NASCAR announced a few competition changes Thursday one day prior to the first Sprint Cup cars hitting the track at Daytona International Speedway. Some of the changes are due to the Charter system enacted this past week while others seem to be an effort to erase any gray areas and one change is specific to Daytona and its unusual qualifying procedures.
First the points: Because of the new Charter system, the field for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series has been dropped from 43 cars to 40, 36 of those with Charters and guaranteed starting spots. The championship points have been changed to reflect this new field number. The winner of a Sprint Cup race will now be awarded 40 points instead of 43 and the number will drop down until the last place participant (the 40th place finisher) who will get a single point. The points will also reflect the fields in the Xfinity and Truck Series, 40 cars and 32 trucks. The same bonus points, for winning a race, leading a lap and leading the most laps, will remain as they were in 2015.
For the Daytona 500, which has a qualifying procedure unique to any other race, the Charter teams will be assigned a starting position based on either their qualifying effort this Sunday or their result in one of the two Can-Am Duel races next Thursday. Sunday’s qualifying will lock in only the pole position and the second place starter. All other starting spots will be determined via the Can-Am Duel races. NASCAR will split up the Charter and Open teams evenly among both races.
If weather cancels qualifying, the top two finishing Open teams in each Can-Am Duel will be given starting spots in the Daytona 500. If both Duels are canceled, Sunday’s qualifying results will be used to determine the four Open teams that would make the 500. If for some reasons there is no qualifying or Can-Am races, combined practice speeds will determine the lineup and the four Open teams. If there is no on-track activity, 2015 owner points will be used to determine which Open teams will make the 40-car field.
For the races beyond the Daytona 500, the 36 Charter teams will vie for the first 36 starting spots along with four Open teams. If weather cancels qualifying the starting lineup will be set according to practice speeds. If weather cancels practice and qualifying, the lineup will be determined by Owner points after the first three races, while the owner points at the end of 2015 will be used for the first three events.
Starting this season NASCAR will still have the green-white-checkered flag, or overtime rule, however there will now be an “Overtime Line” at each race. The location of the overtime line will vary by track.
For all three NASCAR national series, a race may be concluded with overtime, consisting of a new procedure for a green-white-checkered flag finish featuring an “overtime line.” The location of the overtime line will vary by track.
After taking the green on the overtime restart, if the leader then passes the overtime line on the first lap under green before a caution comes out (a “clean restart”), it will be considered a valid green-white-checkered attempt. However, if a caution comes out before the leader passes the overtime line on the first lap under green, it will not be considered a valid attempt, and a subsequent attempt will be made. If necessary, multiple subsequent attempts will be made until a valid attempt occurs.
Once a valid attempt is achieved (clean restart), it will become the only attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. If a caution comes out at any time during the valid green-white-checkered attempt, the field will be frozen and the checkered/yellow or checkered/red displayed to cars at the finish line. Under the old rule, there would be only three attempts at an overtime start; with the procedure released Thursday those attempts seem almost unlimited.
The overtime rule may have been in response to a controversial GWC finish at Talladega Superspeedway last October. Driver Kevin Harvick, in danger of being eliminated from the Chase had an engine that was losing power. Many accused Harvick of causing a crash that resulted in a second attempt at an overtime start and him advancing in the Chase. At the time there seemed to be confusion with many not understanding how NASCAR called the first attempt a ‘non-attempt and the second that resulted in the Harvick incident an actual restart. While the new points and qualification changes are straightforward, how the new “overtime line” will play out may not be determined for some time.