Brian France: Changes to new Chase format unlikely for at least 20 years

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Although there were several tweaks during the first 10 years of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, last month’s major changes to the format should last for the next 20 years.

That’s what NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France told SportingNews.com in an interview earlier this week.

“I do think this will be a format we’ll be using 20 years from now because I think it is going to excite our fans,” France told writer Bob Pockrass.

The 2014 Chase will look little like its 10 preceding editions. Among the most significant changes:

* The Chase field will expand from 12 to 16 drivers.

* The Chase will feature three elimination rounds, with four drivers each being eliminated following each round, leaving a four-driver, winner-take-all (highest-finishing driver earns the championship) format heading into the season-ending race at Homestead. Drivers who win a race in a particular three-race segment are assured of advancing to the next round.

“Somebody can get knocked out of a round because they haven’t won one of those three or they’re not in the top eight or whatever it’s going to be,” France told SportingNews.com. “You’re going to see some strategies if you can knock out a really good team that has had two or three bad races in a row, I bet that’s going to be a factor.”

* Wins will be of utmost importance. Drivers who win at least one race during the 26-race regular season will most likely make the Chase (by winning the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. becomes Chase-eligible). The points leader at the end of the first 26 races, along with the 15 top-30 drivers who have won races, will make up the 16-driver Chase field. If more than 16 drivers win races in the first 26 races, those highest in points will qualify. If fewer than 16 drivers win races in the first 26 events, those winless drivers highest in points will round out the Chase field.

“Sometimes you have to evolve things and that’s probably the smoother way to do things,” France said of the new changes to the Chase. “This is exactly what we did. We evolved into the place it is now. I do think I would be really surprised if there were any significant changes in the foreseeable future.”

Montoya: ‘Hopefully I get a chance to do Indy again’ (VIDEO)

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Juan Pablo Montoya is on site at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, his latest trip in a summer and fall filled with a lot of international travel and a number of different race cars he’s been in.

Montoya is committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura Team Penske in 2018, as he’ll share one of the team’s Acura ARX-05s with Dane Cameron.

However, the question of whether he’ll be able to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil remains.

Team Penske has said it plans to only run four cars next month of May, with Helio Castroneves as the fourth driver alongside the three full-time cars driven by Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

While Montoya has said elsewhere that he’s shopping offers and has talked with other teams, it’d be highly surprising to see the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who developed the Chevrolet engine for IndyCar’s 2018 Dallara universal body kit in a Honda-powered IndyCar, although he is running Honda’s brand (Acura) in sports cars.

Montoya elaborated on his Indy 500 prospects in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton at the Circuit of The Americas.

“Not full-time no,” Montoya told NBCSN of his IndyCar 2018 prospects. “Hopefully I get a chance to go to Indy, hopefully with Penske, (and) if not someone else. We’ll see.”

Photo: IndyCar

Montoya has extolled the early testing both on the 2018 IndyCar and on the Acura ARX-05.

The first Acura chassis has run at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway thus far, and will be put through its paces at other venues over the next few months.

“It’s been good. We did a lot of work with INDYCAR on that car. Fans are gonna like it,” Montoya said of the 2018 kit.

“Going to IMSA with the Acura program, we’ve done a lot of testing. It’s a beauty to drive. It drives better than what it looks! I haven’t had that much fun driving a race car in a long time.”

Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car to be campaigned by Team Penske in 2018