Feb 16, 2011

The 2011 NASCAR season is here, and fans are counting down the days until the first green flag will drop at Daytona. But fans may notice a few changes that NASCAR put into effect for the new racing season.

One of the first changes fans will notice is the new points system. NASCAR is trying to make the points simpler and putting a bigger emphasis on winning.

“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 Brian France NASCAR chairman and CEO during the Sprint Media tour. “This makes every race count leading into the 26th race of the season at Richmond.”

Under the new points system, drivers will be awarded 43 points for first place, 42 for second, 41 for third and so on; every place loses one point down to 43rd place which will be awarded one point. Drivers will also earn one point for leading a lap, one point for leading the most laps and three points for winning the race.

Fans may notice a few changes to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which includes Kansas Speedway on Oct. 9, as well. This season, after the 26th checkered has flown the top 10 drivers in points will be locked into the Chase. These 10 drivers will have their points reset and will be awarded three bonus points for each victory they have earned in the regular season. The 11th and 12th places of the Chase will be filled by two drivers in the top 20 of the point standings who have earned the most victories this season. These drivers’ points will be reset, but they will not receive bonus points for victories.

If these changes would have been made to the Chase last season, Missouri native Jamie McMurray would have been in the Chase. During media day at Daytona International Speedway, McMurray talked about the changes.

 “I think it’s great,” said McMurray. “I think it’s a year late. But I think it is wonderful that they are going to let those guys in. Because really, when you look at our sport, the guys that win races are the ones that are going to contend for a championship.”

The final rule change that has many fans talking is that every driver must pick a series that they wish to compete in for the championship. Under this new rule, drivers will still be allowed to compete in all of NASCAR’s top series, but they must choose which series they wish to accumulate points in. Last season, Brad Keselowski, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular, won the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship. This season, Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck series regulars will still have to compete with Sprint Cup regulars for the win, but not for the championship.

“I think it is a great rule, to be honest with you. In any other pro sports, you pick what league you are going to play in,” said Nationwide series regular Mike Wallace, “It allows other drivers to compete for a championship, and it allows us something more. As a Nationwide only driver I can go to my sponsors and be honest and say I have a chance to run for a championship. In the past, I knew I wasn’t telling the truth.  They can’t just outlaw cup drivers; they say it helps ticket sales. They started with the best compromise they could come up with.”

Fans can see all of these changes at Kansas Speedway in 2011, starting with the June 4-5 race weekend that includes the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 truck race and the Kansas 400 Sprint Cup race. On Oct. 8, the Nationwide Series will take to the track in the Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 9, Kansas Speedway will host the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.