NASCAR Rule Changes For 2011: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Brian France is not slowing down when it comes to tinkering with the France family business otherwise known as NASCAR. France has never been shy of change since ascending to the top of NASCAR and 2011 he may be creating the most sweeping changes in the sports 50 plus year history.
France is scrapping the long time point scoring system of NASCAR for simpler version that will be easily understood by fans and NASCAR teams alike. France has also made changes to spice up the qualifying process by creating a buzz around practice. The new qualifying process will invert the top 35 drivers according to their practice speeds.
The most interesting change will be to the NASCAR Chase itself. In an effort to place more importance on winning, the final two Chase spots will go to drivers that won the most races in the first 26 races of the season. The driver will have to place in the top 20 after 26 races or they will not qualify.
Best Idea For 2011 NASCAR Chase: Introduction Of Wild Card
Jamie McMurray would have qualified for 2010 NASCAR Chase
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
The new wild card element introduced by NASCAR will help teams that have fallen on hard luck still qualify for the NASCAR Chase. Jamie McMurray would have qualified under the new Chase format.
The new Chase Wild Cards will be rewarded to the two drivers that win the most races, but do not make the top ten. The wild card will be an exciting element that will give a team capable of winning races a shot in the NASCAR Chase.
Watching the wild card run of the Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl shows how a team can get hot in the playoffs and make a run to win the title. Richmond could also provide excitement if four or five drivers are tied in wins heading into the final Race to the Chase.
The Jury Is Out On The New Points System
NASCAR is looking for ways to spice up the points battle and create parity.
Jason Smith/Getty Images
The NFL is successful because they have parity. The Pittsburgh Steelers may have six Super Bowl trophies but they have never had a team win five consecutive championships. This is a tough fix for the NASCAR rules makers and their 43 points for a win system is going to take some getting use to.
Other tweaks of the scoring system will be bonus points. Three points for a win, one point for leading a lap and one point for leading the most laps. If NASCAR was serious about the emphasis on winning and leading races why didn't they award more points for these categories?
A win should be worth five and leading a lap should pay two or three points. This will lead to more passes for the lead and a more entertaining race.
Pick a Series Rule May Hurt Saturday Attendance
With drivers forced to pick a series in 2011 will it hurt attendance on Saturday?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The popularity of the NASCAR feeder series the NASCAR Nationwide Series is based on the influx of NASCAR Cup drivers moonlighting on Saturdays. Several drivers over the last few years have raced full time in both series.
With the new rule forcing drivers to choose which series they will run for a championship in there will be less NASCAR Cup drivers on Saturday and attendance may hurt the overall gate.
In the long run this is good for NASCAR because it will force owners to focus on developing talent instead of placing a veteran in the cockpit.
New Qualifying Rules Will Add Excitement and New Strategies
NASCAR qualifying will now be an exciting portion of a NASCAR weekend.
Jason Smith/Getty Images
Qualifying has long been a boring and necessary evil on friday afternoons for a long time. Now NASCAR is looking to spice things up with a new twist to the qualifying system. Now the drivers will qualify based on their practice speeds.
This could lead to some strategizing by NASCAR crew cheifs on different tracks. Grip is one of the most important issues during a qualifying run. All tracks are different. Some tracks it may be better to be loose off the corner and other tracks it may be better to be snug.
This will also be dictated by the time of day a driver goes out for qualifying. Will they want to go out first or be the last to go out and make a qualifying run? Drivers and crew chiefs may devise a strategy to place 30th in the last practice session to get an early run on a fast and slick track. One thing is sure with the new system, every crew chief will look to use it to their advantage.
Rained Out Qualifying Will Use Last Practice To Determine Starting Lineup
Practice sessions will take on added importance with rain out rule.
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
With rain washing out qualifying there will be a new rule in place. If there is a rain out the last practice session will determine the starting lineup. This will make practice sessions important for drivers and crew chiefs to make a concerted effort to be on top of the scoring pylon when the race ends.
New Tire Rules May Affect Practice Times
Tires will be an important commodity on pit road.
Jason Smith/Getty Images
Tire rules will force crew chiefs to plan their practice and qualifying strategies. The teams will be allocated five sets of tires for practice and qualifying instead of six. Once qualifying is in the books the teams will have to return four sets to Goodyear to receive their race package of tires. They make keep one set from qualifying.
New Fuel Can Will Result In Safer & Less Crowded Pit Road
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has already been using the new gas can.
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
The new fueling can to be used this season will solve a few problems. The cans will assure less fumes for the pit crew and NASCAR officials on pit road. The second safety issue the can will solve is the elimination of the catch can man. This will result in a safer pit road with less congestion and less confusion for drivers entering and exiting their pit boxes.