NASCAR is expanding its Chase format to include its feeder series, meaning the champions from the Xfinity and Truck Series will now be crowned in a four-driver shootout at the season finale.
The format announced Tuesday by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France mostly mirrors the playoff-style setup used to determine the Sprint Cup champion the last two years. That system has 16 drivers race through three rounds of eliminations to establish a field of four in which the highest finisher in the finale wins the championship.
The Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series will use a seven-race Chase to decide their champions. The Cup series uses a 10-race format.
All three series will crown a champ at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, all three will begin at different tracks: Chicago (Sprint Cup), Kentucky (Xfinity) and New Hampshire (Trucks).
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France said the change will prepare the sport’s young drivers for the challenges of winning a championship at the Sprint Cup level.
“I think it’s important that they understand how difficult it’s going to be when they get to the next level,” France said. “Certainly, it makes it more exciting for our fans. Fans love elimination style and emphasis on wins. I think for the drivers, I think it’s important to get conditioned to what it’s going to take … to handle the next level.”
There will be 12 drivers eligible for the Xfinity Chase, which will then be whittled to eight drivers and conclude with a final four championship race at Homestead. In Trucks, the format is eight drivers cut down to six and then a final four at Homestead.
NASCAR said the 16 Sprint Cup drivers who qualified for last year’s Chase will not be eligible to compete in the lower-tier championship races. That eliminates Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano — drivers who often moonlight in at least the Xfinity Series — from participating in the season finale.
Other changes announced for the two lower series Tuesday include:
▪ A caution clock for the Truck Series. The clock will be set to 20 minutes and triggered at the start of each green-flag run. When the clock reaches zero, the caution flag will be displayed. The clock will be restarted when the green flag reappears.
▪ In the Xfinity Series, the four “Dash 4 Cash” races will include two heat races and a main event. Results of the heat races will set the starting field for the main. The fields for the heat races will be set via qualifying. Those races are at Bristol, Richmond, Dover and Indianapolis.