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Trying To Understand The New Chase Format (Or Why I Am Knots About This Season).

Posted by Amy in General

I have been as antsy for the 2014 season to start as I can ever remember being.  I am sure most Tony Stewart fans know that feeling I am talking about. Hopefully it brings back our beloved driver into the driver’s seat where he belongs, where we love to see him.  Since his injury at the beginning of August I know that I personally struggled to maintain much of an interest in the 2013 NASCAR season.  It was hard for me to get into it on that personal enjoyment level. Yes my driver’s car was out there being piloted (mostly by Mark Martin – but also by Max Papis and Austin Dillon depending on the race) and yes my driver happens to also be an owner so I had other teams to root for, but it felt much like watching football feels to me. I am vaguely interested in what is happening but not personally vested in it. I miss that feeling.

That said- there is still the unknown for our driver. How will he be able to physically be able to handle the car? The 500 is a long race.  He will only have been in the car a bit for the practices and Sprint Unlimited. I know he is chomping at the bit to get into the car and drive and I honestly can not blame him- I WANT him in there too…but part of me worries it is too soon, he’s not healed enough, etc. Because I am a worrier- that is what I do.  So this fear of the unknown is knot one.

But now- NASCAR is switching everything up this season.

First there is Knockout Qualifying. While the term sounds much more violent then it is- it’s really more of using qualifying to run elimination races.  For 1.25 mile or longer tracks (the majority of tracks on the NASCAR circuit): First “Qualifying” race is everyone qualifying collectively on the track for 25 minutes.  The fastest 24 from that session will do the same thing again for 10 more minutes. And finally the last five minutes is fastest 12 from the previous group. You must use the same tires throughout qualifying.  Shorter tracks the middle round is eliminated. It’s suppose to simulate actual race conditions- and eliminate qualifying setups. I don’t know if it will do that or not.  Do I like this new qualifying? I don’t know- I have only seen it once (at Infineon last season- they did something similar) and I found it hard to follow who was doing well and who was doing not so well.  And what does this mean for drivers like Tony who doesn’t tend to qualify well?  Will it be an advantage to him? I can only hope.  So this newish form of qualifying is unknown number 2- and knot number two.

The New Chase

NASCAR president Mike Helton speaks during the NASCAR Media Tour at Charlotte Convention Center on January 30, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit- Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

And now we have the NEW chase format on top of everything else, or as I like to call it- knot number three.  This new chase format is complicated to me. Even though it was formally announced yesterday,  I am still trying to figure out it out completely.  Here is how it works (as I understand it ):

How To Qualify For The NEW Chase: The Top 15 drivers with the most wins will qualify for The Chase which is still 10 races long. The 16th chase spot will go to the points leader after race 26 if he/she does not have any wins.  (If there are more than 16 drivers with wins, the only way a driver with NO wins can make the chase is by being the points leader, but if there are less than 16 drivers with victories the rest of the spots of the chase will go to winless drivers highest in points. Ties will first be broken by number of wins, followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points. This group of 16 is called The Chase Grid. (Points will be reset here to 2000).

Round 1 (The Challenger Round) of the chase is races 27-29 and consists of all 16 Chase Grid drivers. If a Chase Grid driver wins a race in any of these three races they are automatically guaranteed a spot in the next round.  The remaining spots (1-12) will go to Chase Grid Drivers who are highest in points. (Points at the end of this round will be reset here to 3000 for the Contender Round).

Round 2 (The Contender Round) of the chase is races 30-32 and consists of 12 Chase Grid Driver. Same rules as the Challenger Round apply.  If I Grid Driver in the Contender Round wins one of these races they automatically advance to the next round. The remaining spots (1-8 this time) will go to Chase Grid Drivers who are highest in points.  (Points at the end of this round will be reset to 4000).

Round 3 (The Eliminator Round) of the chase is races 33-35 and consists of 8 Chase Grid Drivers. Same rules apply again- if you win you automatically advance to the final round. Remaining spots (1-4) will go to Chase Grid Drivers who are highest in points. (Points at the end of this round will be reset to 5000).

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship is race 36 and consists of the 4 final Chase Grid Drivers.  This is a one race shoot out where finish order dictates the championship standings.

If you are a Chase Grid Driver who is eliminated in one of the chase rounds your points are converted back to standard points base of 2000 (plus any bonus points that have been earned). These drivers will still contend for driver standings.

Shwew- got all that? Complicated much?  I guess it’s suppose to be more like a traditional championship round for ball/stick sports and supposedly emphasizes wins. I question that because according to this article on Sporting News- if you took this format to last season? The championship winner would be Dale Earnhardt Jr who you may remember had a good season last year but won no races at all.  It really is hard for me to see these changes as nothing more than an attempt to thwart the 48 teams dominance of NASCAR. I also thinks that it puts so much emphasis on the last race and the last track.  However- one upside I think is that it downplays any particular driver’s bad tracks.  If you are not a great restrictor plate driver- it is just one race that doesn’t hold the same weight as it use to.  If you are thwarted by the turns of road courses do not fear.   NASCAR believes that drivers will race different with this chase format. But will they? Tony has always said that he races for wins and lets the points take care of themselves!

I guess time will tell. But all this change this season already coupled with the fact that my driver is coming back from a major injury has me all flustered and flummoxed and in knots.  Hopefully our driver will kick but and win at Homestead next season. #14in14 #SHRin14

Love this graphic from the Stewart-Haas Racing Facebook Page!

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