During Daytona SpeedWeeks there is no shortage of press releases from NASCAR’s media department. Announcements, updates, and series revision releases keep fans abreast of happenings both on and off the track. Now that the Daytona 500 is in the books, let’s take a moment and review the recent notices that will impact this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
It’s All About the Playoffs, NASCAR style!
The races that determine the season’s Champion are no longer called the “Chase” it’s now the “Playoffs.” The Playoffs are the final 10 races of the season. Like last year, there are three elimination races in each round of the playoffs with the final at Homestead being a one-race shootout to determine the series champion. How drivers earn points to qualify for the playoffs is where things get a little tricky. NASCAR announced that all three premier series races would be divided into three stages. Drivers are eligible to earn points during each stage of the race depending on where they finish. There are two types of points awarded, championship points and playoff points. Championship points are what determine the week-to-week driver’s standings and who will qualify for the playoffs. Playoff points are added to a driver’s initial 2,000-point total once they have qualified to participate in the season-ending playoffs. Confused yet? Hold on, here is a further explanation of the process.
During each race of the year, at the end of stage one the NASCAR flagman will wave a green and white checkered flag to signify completion of the stage. The next flag displayed will be a traditional yellow flag allowing teams the opportunity to pit for normal pit-road service. The winner of stage one will receive 10 championship points, second place in the stage earns 9 points, down to 10th place which earns 1 point. These points could mean the difference in a driver without a win making the playoffs on points alone. The same format is followed at the end of stage two. As we saw last year, the last few playoff positions often come down to a points battle. Contenders can greatly impact their playoff chances by focusing on gaining points at each stage of the race. Essentially setting up two “sprint races” within the main event itself. The winner of the third stage is the race winner and championship points are awarded as follows; 40 points for 1st, 35 points for 2nd, 34 points for 3rd, reducing a point for each position down to one point for positions 36 through 40. Bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps have been eliminated. Also new in 2017, NASCAR will crown a regular season champion based on championship points earned up to the start of the playoffs.
“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.”
Now let’s talk about playoff points. Like last year, race winners automatically qualify for the playoffs. Unlike last year, not every driver will start even with 2,000 points. Stage winners throughout the year earn one playoff point that will be added to their starting total. But, only if that driver is a playoff participant. Race winners receive five playoff points that are added to their starting totals in addition to automatically qualifying for a playoff spot. Season-ending points totals will earn playoff qualifiers additional playoff points with the regular season champion being awarded 15 playoff points, 2nd place 10 points, 3rd place 8 points, 4th place 7 points, and so on. All playoff points carry through each of the three rounds of the playoffs. This raises the ante for every stage of every race with playoff qualified drivers that are in with a race win wanting to enhance their starting point totals. Meanwhile, drivers trying to qualify for the playoffs on points will be desperate to earn as many championship points as possible at each event. This should produce some spectacular racing for stage wins.
“These are enhancements that the NASCAR fan has long sought, and the entire industry has worked hard to develop a better racing format for our fans,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president, and chief racing development officer. “This format puts a premium on every victory and every in-race position over the course of the season. Each point can eventually result in winning or losing a championship.”
For the first time since 1971 NASCAR awarded points in the Can-Am Duel races that set the field for the Dayton 500. Drivers finishing in the first 10 positions earned points in the same manner stage winners do in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. In another change from previous years, events no longer become official at the halfway point of the race, the end of stage two will serve as the point in which results enter the record books. Stages for the Daytona 500 ran for 60 laps. Stage two concluded at 120 of the 200 total laps set to be run. Stage lengths will vary from racetrack-to-racetrack based on several factors.
“Every track is unique for its characteristics in length, surface, and overall racing conditions,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “We worked closely with race teams on expected fuel and tire runs over the entirety of an event when considering stage lengths. And in the end, stage lengths were decided based upon what would provide the best race for fans.”
For Michigan International Speedway the first two stage lengths are set at 60 laps.
In a press release last week, NASCAR announced a new video app for fans available from DeskSite that allows users to customize their NASCAR experience. Just in time for the 2017 DAYTONA 500®, NASCAR and DeskSite jointly announced today the official launch of the NASCAR DeskSite, an interactive and personalized video app that delivers premium, high-definition video content on-demand to NASCAR fans – for free. Described as a “DVR for the Internet,” the NASCAR DeskSite serves as a digital fan hub for NASCAR.com video content including interviews with drivers, post-race recaps, in-depth coverage, driver spotlights and breaking news. The content is available to fans at any time, even offline. The NASCAR DeskSite enables automatic downloads and stores videos directly to devices based on user preferences, allowing fans the ability to view NASCAR.com video content offline without an Internet connection. Audiovisual alerts reduce the delay between a video’s initial release and fan access. The platform is currently loaded with content previewing the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™ points race of the 2017 season, the DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February. The NASCAR DeskSite is available on both Windows and Mac computers, as well as Windows tablets. Fans can download the app for free at NASCAR.com/DeskSite.
NASCAR’s New Concussion Protocol:
In other news to come out of Speedweeks, NASCAR announced updates to its concussion protocol for competitors. They Adding a consistent screening tool for all venues and increased available neurological support for race event weekends through a new partnership with AMR.
“NASCAR has worked very closely with the industry to ensure our concussion protocol reflects emerging best practices in this rapidly developing area of sports medicine,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We will continue to utilize relationships we’ve had for years with leaders in the neurological research field who helped to shape these updates.”
As part of the new rule regarding damaged vehicles, a driver whose car sustains damage from an accident or contact of any kind and goes behind the pit wall or to the garage is required to visit the Infield Care Center to be evaluated. The medical portion of NASCAR’s Event Standards now require that Infield Care Center physicians incorporate the SCAT-3 diagnostic tool in screening for head injuries. AMR will provide on-site neurological consultative support at select NASCAR events during the 2017 season. AMR will work directly with NASCAR in the continued development of their concussion protocol. The new protocol goes into effect immediately for all NASCAR national series.
New Scoring Rules for Damaged Race Cars!
In addition, race cars that go to the garage area are no longer allowed to be repaired for a return to the track. NASCAR also monitors repairs being performed on pit road. No new parts can be added and repairs must be completed within five minutes. The five-minute clock starts when a car enters pit road, stops when the car exits the pits. If the car enters pit road again during the same caution period, the clock resumes. Teams that exceed the five-minute time limit are sent to the garage. In addition, the driver must also be able to maintain the competitive minimum speed designated for the specific track. Falling below the set lap time will also lead to disqualification and send a team to the garage.
NASCAR TrackPass Goes International:
In a move aimed at growing the sport outside of the U.S., NASCAR announced plans to offer live race broadcasts to international racing fans. NASCAR TrackPass™, the sport’s first digital subscription product developed specifically for the international market, will now offer live racing action to more NASCAR® fans than ever before. Fans around the world can watch all 38 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™ and 33 NASCAR XFINITY Series™ events either through NASCAR’s local television partner or by subscribing to NASCAR TrackPass. The product will be available in 120 countries and territories at launch, with plans to continue expanding the NASCAR TrackPass footprint throughout 2017.
Team Penske, Logano Ink Contract Extension that Includes Shell-Pennzoil:
Just prior to the 500 Team Penske announced the signing of Joey Logano to a contract extension through 2022 and beyond. The announcement also included the news that Shell-Pennzoil will continue to as the primary sponsor for the #22 Ford Fusion during the term of Logano’s contract extension.
“We are so proud of the driver Joey has become since joining our team in 2013 and all the success he has been a part of on the No. 22 team,” said Roger Penske.
“But more importantly, we are proud of the man that Joey has become. He has evolved into an effective leader both on and off the track. Joey is a great ambassador for all of our partners and his philanthropic work through his Joey Logano Foundation has been remarkable. Joey is the type of person we are proud to have at Team Penske and we are excited that he will be a big part of the team’s future for many years to come.”
Look to the Lasco Press for complete coverage of this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, weekly race reports, news that you need to know, and expanded at track coverage of select events.