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.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.