In baseball, changes come slowly. Adding a designated hitter, for instance, took MLB nearly 70 years from the time the idea was brought up to when it was implemented in 1973. In racing, however, sometimes the only thing you can count on is change. And it’s certainly the main theme flowing through the early stages of the 2017 racing season.
Speaking of stages, NASCAR’s new “enhancements” to their racing format this season is leaving some scratching their heads about its effects on the sport. The new format will break up races into three stages similar to motocross heat races. The winner of each stage will be awarded points toward the year-end championship with the final stage winner being awarded the most points, and effectively recognized as the winner (in the traditional sense) of the race.
Why is NASCAR doing this? Ratings and attendance numbers have been falling for a while and something had to be done. At least that’s the unofficial line. The official line, more or less, is to to enhance racing and add excitement for the fans – because pure racing just isn’t exciting anymore, at least not the way NASCAR sees it.
The long races in the middle of the season that are not marquee events like Daytona have become background for almost any other sport going on that day in between the start and finish of race. And in this Twitter era, fans can online and watch the highlights. It’s been a challenge to hold onto the viewers in the age of endless distraction from smartphones and social media.
The new NASCAR format consists of the following:
• Races will now consist of three stages, with championship implications in each stage.
• The top-10 finishers of the first two stages will be awarded additional championship points.
• The winner of the first two stages of each race will receive one playoff point, and the race winner will receive five playoff points. Each playoff point will be added to his or her reset total following race No. 26, if that competitor makes the playoffs.
• All playoff points will carry through to the end of the third round of the playoffs (Round of 8), with the Championship 4 racing straight-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title.
• Championship points following the first two stages will be awarded on a descending scale, with the stage winner receiving 10 points, second receiving 9 points, and so on.
• The race winner following the final stage will now receive 40 points, second-place will receive 35, third-place 34, fourth-place 33, and so on.
— SiriusXM NASCAR (@SiriusXMNASCAR) January 24, 2017
“Simply put, this will make our great racing even better,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. “I’m proud of the unprecedented collaboration from our industry stakeholders, each of whom had a common goal – strengthening the sport for our fans. This is an enhancement fully rooted in teamwork, and the result will be an even better product every single week.”
NASCAR also announced a playoff bonus structure that will see the regular season points leader honored as the regular season champion, earning 15 playoff points that will be added to the driver’s playoff reset of 2,000. In addition, the top-10 drivers in points leading into the playoffs will receive playoff points, with second place receiving 10 playoff points, third place will earn 8 points, fourth place will receive 7 points, and so on. All playoff points will carry through to the end of the Round of 8.
So Long, Bernie – Formula 1 Names New CEO
It’s been a really long time since anyone other Bernie Ecclestone was “in charge” of Formula 1. He’s been the head of the Championship for an unprecedented four decades. In fact, there really hasn’t been anyone who was truly the frontman of F1 until Bernie charged his way to the front. However, the new owners of F1 – after saying that Bernie could stay as long as he wanted, have had a change of heart and would like to see the 86 year old Mr. E enjoy the rest of his golden years in peace.
Stepping into Ecclestone’s oversized shoes is American Chase Carey from Liberty Media, who is a former VP of 21st Century Fox. Carey assumed responsibilities for F1 after Liberty completed its acquisition of the global series last week. He made a phone call to Ecclestone to tell him his services were no longer needed and that he would given the new title of “Chairman Emeritus!”
We’re not sure how well that phone call went, but we can only imagine. Rumors are swirling that he is going to form a breakaway series, but that won’t do anyone any good. Let’s hope it’s just a rumor.
Along with naming Carey as the new CEO, a big name has come out of retirement to head up the technical side of the sport. Ross Brawn, who masterminded all of Michael Schumacher’s championships from Benetton to Ferrari and who was his boss at Mercedes F1 before he retired again at the end of the 2012 season, has stepped into a new role as the managing director. And on the commercial side is ex-ESPN executive Sean Bratches. Bernie has famously said that no one could fill his shoes, and in a sense that is true. It will take three people.
The following are some of the responses to Bernie’s departure:
Bernie, mega job! But a change has been overdue. Mr. Carey, all the best in making our sport awesome again. 👍
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) January 23, 2017
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) January 23, 2017
— FIA (@fia) January 24, 2017