Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship New Format Will Create Most Intensity Ever at Talladega Superspeedway

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TALLADEGA, AL – The pressure and intensity to win at NASCAR’s biggest, baddest and most competitive track – Talladega Superspeedway - is now at an all-time level after Thursday’s new “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship” format was announced by NASCAR. As a result, there is little doubt that the 2.66-mile, 33-degree banked venue will host the two most exciting races in all of motorsports in 2014.

The “Win And You’re In” format will place heavy emphasis on going to Gatorade Victory Lane. During the first 26 events, a winning driver (top 30 in points standings) could make the expanded 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, the 10-race playoff at the end of the season. Winning a race in the elimination “round-by-round” Chase will ultimately reward a battle-tested, worthy champion.  The urgency to triumph at both Talladega NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races – the Aaron’s 499 in the spring and the GEICO 500, the sixth race in the Chase, will be tense.

“This format is going to increase the competition and winning at all the race tracks, but none more than here at Talladega,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. “Winning the Aaron’s 499 sets a driver in prime position to vault  into The Chase, so fans can expect 43 drivers competing with unbelievable side-by-side racing, three and four wide like never before, all vying for the win. And, don’t think a driver running 20th doesn’t have a shot in the final laps. Fans still remember when Dale Earnhardt, Sr., when he came from 18th in just five laps to win Talladega in 2000.

“Our fall GEICO 500 will play a pivotal role in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. With us being the sixth race where the field of drivers will be cut from 12 to eight, it’s going to be incredibly stressful the entire race, especially in the late laps. It will be a “win or go home” for some of the drivers, so the battle to get to the front will be like no other. There will be an astonishing urgency to win. Couple the new championship format with the three mini race elimination qualifying system where we will see 200-plus mph speeds, it’s going to be two intense weekends.”

The GEICO 500 will be the final race of what NASCAR has deemed the “Contender Round,” races 30-32 of the 36-race schedule. After the GEICO 500, the field of challengers for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship will be reduced from 12 drivers to eight, making Talladega again the “Wild Card” event of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Three times since the original Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was created in 2004 has a driver won at Talladega’s Aaron’s 499 but didn’t make the Chase – Jeff Gordon in 2005, Brad Keselowski in 2009 and last year with David Ragan. With the new format, both Gordon and Ragan would have made the Chase, but Keselowski would not have been eligible, running only a limited schedule.

Details of the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series format include:

-       A victory in the first 26 races all but guarantees a berth in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – a change that will put an unprecedented importance on winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race all season long

-       Expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, with those drivers advancing to what now will be known as the NASCAR Chase Grid

-       The number of championship drivers in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship will decrease after every three Chase races, from 16 to start in the Chase Grid; 12 after Chase race No. 3; eight after Chase race No. 6 (Talladega Superspeedway’s GEICO 500); and four after Chase race No. 9

-       The first three races of the Chase (27-29) will be known as the Challenger Round; races 30-32 (Race 32 - Talladega Superspeedway’s GEICO 500) will be known as the Contender Round; races 33-35 will be the Eliminator Round and race No. 36 will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship

-       A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round

-       Four drivers will enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with a chance at the title, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Eligibility for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup

The top 15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races will earn a spot in the NASCAR Chase Grid – provided they have finished in the top 30 in points and attempted to qualify for every race (except in rare instances). The 16th Chase position will go to the points leader after race No. 26, if he/she does not have a victory. In the event that there are 16 or more different winners over 26 races, the only winless driver who can earn a Chase Grid spot would be the points leader after 26 races.

If there are fewer than 16 different winners in the first 26 races, the remaining Chase Grid positions will go to those winless drivers highest in points. If there are 16 or more winners in the first 26 races, the ties will first be broken by number of wins, followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points.

As was implemented in 2011, prior to the start of the Chase, all Chase Grid drivers will have their points adjusted to 2,000, with three additional bonus points added to their total for each win in the first 26 races.

Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Structure

After the third Chase race, the Chase Grid will be left with 12 drivers. After the sixth Chase race, the field will drop to eight drivers, and following the ninth Chase race, only four drivers will remain in championship contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

The first round (races 27-29) will be called the Challenger Round. If a driver in the Chase Grid wins a Challenger Round race, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions 1-12 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each will then have their points reset to 3,000.

The second round (races 30-32) will be called the Contender Round. Likewise, if a driver in the top 12 in points wins a race in the Contender Round, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions 1-8 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each will then have their points reset to 4,000.

The third round (races 33-35) will be called the Eliminator Round. If a driver in the top eight in points wins a race in the Eliminator Round, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions 1-4 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each will then have their points reset to 5,000.

Additionally, drivers who are eliminated in the Contender and Eliminator Rounds will have their points readjusted. Each eliminated driver will return to the Chase-start base of 2,000 (plus any regular season wins bonus points), with their accumulated points starting with race No. 27 added. This will allow all drivers not in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title to continue to race for the best possible season-long standing, with final positions fifth-through-16th still up for grabs.

Four Drivers, First-to-the-Finish Championship Finale

The 36th and final race of the season will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Simply stated, the highest finisher in that race among the remaining four eligible drivers will win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.

Bonus points for laps led will not apply in the season finale, so the official finishing position alone will decide the champion.

Note: All rules outlined above also apply to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner championship structure.

NASCAR returns to Talladega Superspeedway in 2014 with the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, which is set for May 2-4. The NASCAR Nationwide Series will take to the track on Saturday, May 3 while NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series machines take the green flag on Sunday, May 4. For ticket information, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

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