The short NASCAR off season ended Tuesday as the annual pilgrimage of the media who cover the sport ended at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte North Carolina. The first session of the three day event brought perhaps the biggest new of the week as NASCAR announced that its Chase playoff format will be extended to the Xfinity and Truck series.
The format, featured in the top touring Sprint Cup series since 2004 and tweaked in 2014, features separate rounds of eligible drivers who are eliminated after three race rounds leaving four drivers racing for the respective series title in the final race of the season with the highest finisher among the four crowned as champion.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series Chase begins with16 drivers; under the new format announced Tuesday, 12 drivers will be eligible in the XFINITY Series, and eight in the Truck Series. Like the Sprint Cup series, three races will make up each round and the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will determine the champion. The one caveat under the new format is that drivers who are competing in the Sprint Cup series for points will not be allowed to compete in the final event at Homestead for the XFINITY and Truck series.
As with the Sprint Cup Chase, a win in the first 26 races all but guarantees a driver entry into the XFINITY Series Chase, provided the driver is in the top 30 in points and has attempted to qualify for each race. Drivers who win two Dash 4 Cash bonuses are also all but guaranteed a Chase berth. In the Truck series a win in the first 16 races all but guarantees a driver entry into the Truck Series Chase, provided that the driver is in the Top 30 in points and has attempted to qualify for each race.
“Fans, partners and the industry have embraced the new Chase format like nothing we’ve seen in the sport’s history,” said NASCAR Chairman Brian France. “Winning never has been this important, and the excitement generated the past two seasons in the Sprint Cup Series has led to this implementation of the Chase format in all three national series. Competition in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will undoubtedly elevate to new heights and shine a spotlight on the rising stars of our sport.”
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell also announced several racing-related changes to the XFINITY Series and Truck Series, beginning with the 2016 season.
In the XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program now will be made up of Two Heats and a Main. Drivers who win two of the four Dash 4 Cash bonuses available also are all but guaranteed a spot in the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase.
In addition a Caution Clock will be utilized in each Truck Series event (except for Eldora Speedway). The clock will be set to 20 minutes and triggered at the start of each green-flag run during race events. When the clock counts down to zero, a caution flag then will be displayed and no beneficiary will be awarded. A caution occurring before time expires resets the clock when the subsequent green flag is displayed and the first truck a lap down will be the beneficiary.
The caution clock will be turned off with 20 laps to go at all events in the series, with the exception of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Pocono Raceway, where the clock will be turned off with 10 laps remaining.
“These innovations contain the elements of racing that our fans want the most,” said O’Donnell. “The enhancements put a premium on in-race strategy, and will create an unprecedented level of excitement as teams make tactical decisions that could impact their spot in the Chase.”