NASCAR officials announced a new point system for the 2011 season, along with changes to the way drivers qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup and a number of rule adjustments.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said on Wednesday that drivers in all NASCAR national series will be awarded points on a 43-to-1 scale, with one-point decreases. France stated the change is based on having a more simple system that is easier to understand and apply, although it is also expected to to keep gaps tighter than in the past.
"Many of our most loyal fans don't fully understand the points system we have used to date," said France, referencing the system that has been in use since 1975. "So, we are simplifying the points system to one that is much easier to understand. Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow."
A new bonus points system was also announced to reward drivers winning races. A driver claiming victory will get three bonus points, one more will be given for leading a lap and another one for leading the most laps, which means a winner can claim a maximum of 48 points.
Adjustments have also been made to the way the Chase format is set for the final 10 races. The top 10 in the points during the regular season will automatically become title contenders, while two additional spots will be given to those winning the most races who aren't already qualified. If there are no race winners outside the top 10 after race 26, the final two slots in the Chase will be determined by the point standings.
Points for those in the Chase will now be reset to 2000 plus three bonus per win, although 11th and 12th places will not get the benefit of the bonus. Under this format, last year's Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner Earnhardt Ganassi's Jamie McMurray would have been in the Chase, while Richard Childress' Clint Bowyer would have missed it.
"The fans tell us that winning matters the most with them, 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."
Minor tweaks were also revealed for qualifying, the order not being determined by a draw anymore, instead by speeds from practice. If qualifying gets rained out, practice speeds will also be used to set the field, while If no practice or qualifying are run, then the owner standings determine the starting grid.
France also confirmed that NASCAR drivers competing in more than one national series can only contend for one championship, putting Cup regulars out of the title equation in the Nationwide and Truck series.
Officials also announced that tire allocation for practice and qualifying will be decreased from six to five sets of tires. Four of those sets will be returned to Goodyear in order to receive their tires for the race.
Self-ventilated dumps cans have also been implemented for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, after successfully being tested in Trucks last year. This will eliminate the need for a catch-can man, decreasing the number of "over-the-wall" crew members from seven to six.