NASCAR drivers and owners won’t sit with officials for their annual briefings until next week, but news of potentially dramatic changes to the sport’s point system and championship Chase for the Sprint Cup format has already started to leak.
The Charlotte Observer reported Friday night that NASCAR is strongly considering implementing eliminations during the 10-week Chase that would create a four-driver, winner-take-all season finale. The newspaper also said NASCAR would expand the 12-driver playoff field to 16 and that a win in the first 26 races would practically guarantee a playoff berth.
NASCAR spokesman Brett Jewkes declined to comment on the story outside of a statement that said the sanctioning body had “begun the process of briefing key industry stakeholders on potential concepts to evolve its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format.”
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“This dialogue is the final phase of a multi-year process that has included the review of extensive fan research, partner and industry feedback and other data-driven insights,” Jewkes said. “NASCAR has no plans to comment further until the stakeholder discussions are complete. We hope to announce any potential changes for the 2014 season to our media and fans very soon.”
NASCAR has been quietly mulling changes to the points system, Chase and race formats over the past year. It last tinkered with the Chase prior to the 2011 season when it added two wild-card spots to the Chase — partly due to feedback from the annual preseason driver/owner meetings.
That means the reported points system changes could still be tweaked or changed when drivers and other key NASCAR partners give feedback on what they think the format should look like. The final changes could be announced during NASCAR’s stop on the annual preseason media tour, which is Jan. 30.