NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France made it official Wednesday evening, confirming that the sanctioning body will implement a new, simplified point system and a modified Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2011.
"Fans tell us that winning matters the most, so we're combining the tradition of consistency in our sport with the excitement that comes along with winning," said France. "This makes every race count, leading into the 26th race of the season at Richmond when we set the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup."
Under the new system, Sprint Cup Series race winners will receive 43 points, with the runner-up receiving 42 and the third-place finisher 41. The last place finisher in each event will receive a single point. Winners will be awarded three bonus points, with one additional point awarded for leading a lap and leading the most laps. Under the new system, race winners can earn as many as 48 points, with no one else capable of tallying more than 45. The new point system will be used in all three of NASCAR’s national series.
"Many of our most loyal fans don't fully understand the points system we have used to date," said France. "So we are simplifying the points system to one that is much easier to understand. Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but easier to follow."
France also announced fundamental changes to the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The 2011 Chase will once again feature 12 drivers, but only the Top-10 in championship points after 26 races will advance automatically. The other two Chase spots will be filled by the drivers outside the Top-10 who have accumulated the most regular-season wins, provided they rank in the Top-20 in points. The Chase field will be once again be “seeded” following Race 26 based on wins, with each driver receiving three bonus points for each regular-season victory. The point leader following Race 26 will receive no special consideration.
France also confirmed that beginning this season, drivers in NASCAR’s three national series will be required to choose the championship for which they will compete. There will be no restriction on how many races a driver can run, or where, and they will still be allowed to earn points toward each series’ respective owner’s championship.
Other changes announced Wednesday include a new qualifying procedure that will set each week’s qualifying order on practice speeds, with the fastest cars qualifying last. If qualifying falls victim to rain, the final starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds. If weather cancels both practice and qualifying, the starting lineup will be set by driver points.
France also commented on the caliber of competition in 2010, saying the sanctioning body “enters 2011 with positive momentum and a great sense of excitement and optimism. We believe our fans are in store for some of the best racing the sport has to offer."