CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Monday evening, NASCAR announced an enhanced competition format that will be implemented in all three national series -- including the NASCAR Cup Series -- starting in the upcoming season.
A new, stage-based race format, playoff points system and regular-season champion incentives highlight the updates.
The race format is designed to create even more dramatic moments over the course of the season, emphasizing aggressive racing and strategy.
“Simply put, this will make our great racing even better,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. “I’m proud of the unprecedented collaboration from our industry stakeholders, each of whom had a common goal – strengthening the sport for our fans. This is an enhancement fully rooted in teamwork, and the result will be an even better product every single week.”
"I think it’s an exciting time for NASCAR and the fans should be pretty excited about this."Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Races will now consist of three stages, and the top 10 cars in each of the first two stages will be awarded additional championship points, with each stage winner receiving a playoff point.
Between each of the stages, a caution period will be held before the race goes green once again. At the end of the first two stages, the first-place car will receive 10 points, while second place will receive nine and so on.
"The stages are going to bring a lot of excitement for the drivers and the fans," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on-stage Monday. "As a driver, I'm happy to be rewarded for performing well throughout the event, not just for how I finished."
The overall race winner will be playoff-eligible and receive five playoff points in addition to the victor's 40 points following the final stage. Second place will receive 35 points, with third place receiving 34 and so on.
Additionally, NASCAR announced a playoff bonus structure that includes crowning the regular-season points leader as the regular-season champion, earning 15 playoff points that will be added to the driver's playoff reset total of 2,000. Each of the top 10 drivers in points leading to the playoffs will receive bonus points, with second place receiving 10, third place eight, fourth place seven and so on.
All playoff points earned will carry through to the end of the Round of 8.
"It’s going to be very interesting to watch these crew chiefs try to figure out the strategies that will help their drivers obtain the most points for each stage, and it’s going to be fun to see how this evolves," Earnhardt said. "I think it’s an exciting time for NASCAR and the fans should be pretty excited about this."
Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson agreed, noting that the organization's crew chiefs can't wait to get to work under the new format.
"I mean, you talk about the opportunity to run different plays, work different strategies and reward risk where guys are willing to take risks or need to later in the season," Carlson said. "It’s just incredible as you start playing this through in your mind."
Jeff Gordon said the most impressive facet, to him, was the incredible collaboration between all sides of the industry to create the new format.
"I think what came out of it was this balance between what the fans were asking for and what we could do to make the races even more exciting and make more moments, but also balancing out competition and what the competitors are going to go through," he said.
"I think we came up with something really incredible."
For Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick's take on the new format, click here.