After the success of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at the sport’s top level, NASCAR announced on Tuesday that it will restructure the Xfinity and Camping World Trucks Series points system.
Similar to the Chase format in the Sprint Cup, drivers from the two series will be eliminated each round until a four-driver winner-takes-all race at Homestead-Miami. Unlike the Sprint Cup, however, only 12 cars will make the Xfinity Chase while eight will participate in the Trucks.
“Fans, partners and the industry have embraced the new Chase format like nothing we’ve seen in the sport’s history,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said. “Winning never has been this important, and the excitement generated the past two seasons in the Sprint Cup Series has led to this implementation of the Chase format in all three national series.
“Competition in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will undoubtedly elevate to new heights and shine a spotlight on the rising stars of our sport.”
Both formats will also be seven races, rather than the 10-race Chase at the Sprint Cup level, due to the volume of events on the schedule. Lastly, any Sprint Cup Chase-qualifying driver from the previous season will not be permitted to race in the Xfinity or Trucks finale at Homestead.
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) January 19, 2016
At the Xfinity Series level, NASCAR will also experiment with heat races for the “Dash 4 Cash” events. With so much on the line — a $100,000 bonus, to be exact — at Bristol, Richmond, Dover and Indianapolis Motor Speedways, heat races between odd and even qualifiers will set the field, similar to the Can-Am Duels prior to the Daytona 500.
Along with the new points structure and heat races, NASCAR will also test out a new 20-minute caution clock in the Trucks Series. The clock is set at 20 minutes and triggered at the start of each green-flag run during race events. Once the clock reaches zero, a caution flag then will be displayed and no beneficiary will be awarded.
With 20 laps remaining in most races, the clock will be turned off. At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Pocono Raceway, the clock will turn off after the 10-lap mark.
“These innovations contain the elements of racing that our fans want the most,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said. “The enhancements put a premium on in-race strategy, and will create an unprecedented level of excitement as teams make tactical decisions that could impact their spot in the Chase.”
Fans of the sport, on the other hand, didn’t seem to enjoy the thought of a caution clock. Luckily, it’s only at the Trucks Series level and not at the sport’s highest series, which has received plenty of scrutiny over the years with new rules implemented.
— Candace Fairley (@MariaFair) January 19, 2016
— zachary rogers (@zacharyrogers76) January 19, 2016
The 20-lap caution is obviously a controversial move, but one that could end up improving the quality of racing over the long haul. For example, the pitch clock in minor league baseball last year seemed like an awful idea at first. But if you attended a minor league game at any level last year, the action was far more exciting.
Between the new caution clock in Trucks and Chase format now at every level, the 2016 season will be like any other before it. And depending on the results from both, it could very well shape the future of NASCAR in the coming years.