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.”