Changes continue to be announced for the 2017 Monster Energy Cup season with the sanctioning body taking another step to ensure that every stop on the schedule will feature competitive racing from green flag to checkered flag. Last season produced both a very competitive regular season and Chase, but this year NASCAR will introduce both a new race format and an updated point system that it hopes will go a long way ensuring that every lap of every race will be just as important to drivers and their teams as the white flag lap.
The changes that NASCAR announced concerning the point system that will be used to eventually crown the Monster Energy Cup champion will also be used in both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. The changes to the point system are intended to increase the urgency and the aggressiveness of the racing earlier in the race rather than what has been normally saved for the closing laps.
Races will be divided into three stages with the number of laps in the first two stages the same and will not change if the caution comes out. The end of the second stage will be approximately at the halfway point of the race. A race would be official after the completion of the second stage if it rains.
The top-10 finishers of the first two stages will be awarded additional championship points. The winner of these two stages will receive one playoff point and the race winner will receive five playoff points. Each playoff point will be added to a driver’s reset total following race No. 26, if the driver makes the playoff. The top- 10 drivers in the standings at the end of the regular season will also earn additional playoff points on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.
This is the first time since the introduction of the Chase that the points leader at the end of the regular season has been rewarded going into the Chase. Any earned playoff points will carry through the first three rounds of the Chase and they will continue to accumulate during the Chase races. Going into the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami, no playoff points will be carried over. Just like in years past, the four drivers eligible to run for the title will compete against each other with the highest finisher being crowned the series champion.
Championship points that have always been awarded at the conclusion of a race will also see some changes. Drivers will now earn additional championship points at the conclusion of each of the first two stages. Each stage winner will receive 10 points, second will receive nine, and continue down until the 10th place finisher who will receive one point. The race winner will earn 40 points; second place will receive 35, third-place 34 and continue to the 35th place finisher who will receive two points. Those finishing 36th to 40th will be awarded one point. There will no longer be any bonus points awarded to drivers who lead a lap or to the driver that leads the most laps in a race.
NASCAR isn’t waiting for the first race of the season to start awarding points. For the first time ever, the two 150-mile qualifying races at Daytona will be worth points to the top-10 drivers on a 10-1 scale, but the winners do not get bonus points for the playoffs.
PIT NOTES: The names of drivers will no longer appear on a Cup car’s front windshield. Monster Energy will now have its name and logo across the top of the front windshield along with the car manufacturer’s logo. The driver’s name will now appear on the rear windshield.