Driving Today

Clarifying the Simpler Sprint Cup System

Yes, the idea was to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup easier for the fan to understand, but we feel...

As promised, we’re going to make the newly introduced NASCAR season-points system much easier to understand since, although it’s simpler than the previous system, it still needs plenty of explanation. Last week, we brought you up-to-speed on the new season-points format and, though the changes are somewhat difficult to delineate, we do feel they are for the better. This week, we decided to tackle the new procedures for qualifying for the end-of-season Chase for the Sprint Cup, because it too requires a modicum of clarification.

Most recently, 12 Sprint Cup drivers qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and the qualification procedure was straightforward. The top 12 drivers in season-points after the first 26 races qualified -- end of story. Any one of those 12 drivers could, in theory, win the Sprint Cup championship; the other drivers couldn’t. Under the just-introduced format, the number of drivers who will qualify for the Chase remains at 12 -- but there is a new wrinkle. Taking a cue from baseball and football, the final two drivers to make the Chase will be wild cards. Instead of filling those spots with drivers who stand 11th and 12th in points, NASCAR will instead give the final two spots to the two drivers with the most wins who are not in the top 10, as long as they are ranked in the top 20 in points. And there’s another wrinkle: If two or more drivers end the first 26 races with the same number of wins, qualifying for a Chase wild card spot, a tie-breaking system will determine whether one or both get the nod. If no drivers outside the top 10 have captured a victory after the first 26 races are completed, another tie-breaking system is in place for that as well.

The goal of the change is to reward winning races, and it is a praiseworthy goal. Motorsports is primarily about winning races. Fans don’t care much if you finish fifth in every Sprint Cup race -- though if you do, you will probably rank very high in series points and end up in the Chase. We imagine that NASCAR officials are secretly hoping that the wild cards may provide Chase entry for fan favorites like Dale Earnhardt Jr.



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