This media tour has been going on for 35 years and brings over 200 journalists from around the world to see what’s new for NASCAR for 2017. It is unique for all sports because of its concentration of info. New this year is the inclusion of Xfinity and Camping World racing to the newly named Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series the tour would over.
The big splash was NASCAR debuting its new format for those three classes. It’s an enhanced format that makes more laps count – both in a race and the playoffs at the end of the season. No longer called the Chase, the playoffs are basically the same. The races will take on more importance as they will be broken into Stages; 1, 2 and The Final Stage. Points will be awarded for winners of Stages and Top Ten in points. And some of the points will carry on thru the playoffs.
The new format is the work of just about all the stakeholders of NASCAR; owners, drivers, officials, TV networks, track officials and more. The idea was to make races more exciting for those watching at the track and in front of their TVs. The networks will have the opportunity to keep more racing action on TV with better positioning of commercials within those Stages. It will open up more strategy for teams and, as fans get used to it, more possibilities and scenarios to follow.
“I think this is going to enhance the experience for the competitors as well as the fans at home,” said Jeff Gordon, a four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.
“There are no off weeks. Every single race matters,” Denny Hamlin said. “Not only that but every lap of every race matters. Each accomplishment makes your road to Homestead-Miami (for the season finale) a little bit easier.”
In the Nuts and Bolts of the Monster series, the cycling in of new cars is playing out. The Ford Fusion came in last year. The 2018 Toyota Camry rolls out this year, even tho it won’t be on the street until next. That move isn’t new to NASCAR as it turned Chevy’s Lumina loose before it hit the street. As for Chevy, they will stop selling their SS this year, so their new car, unnamed a this point, is under development and will debut next year.
A surprise came from two longtime teams as they announced downsizing moves. Roush Fenway and Richard Petty dropped down to having two and one Ford teams, respectively. In a strange move, the one Roush driver that lost a ride ended up driving a Chevy with the Charter from Roush and Ford’s blessings. The idea is he will return to Roush when they go back to three cars, hopefully in 2018. Meanwhile, a Ford will have it’s newest team, Stewart Haas and its four Fusions.
Then, there’s Dodge and the rumors of them returning to NASCAR that are very strong these days. They are a very good position to return as they already have a Gen 6 car made. When they pulled out after winning the Championship, they had no team to run their Charger. Like the other OEMs, they did develop a Gen 6 Charger and already had a competitive engine. Not having to start from scratch, they only need to update that Charger and engine. Any other OEM coming in would need to make a new car and engine. Dodge can streamline that timeline and present NASCAR with and updated car by late Summer and possibly race in 2018. Will they do it? Stay tuned…
And folks are still reeling over Carl Edwards’ surprise announcement that he’s leaving his Joe Gibbs Toyota. He didn’t use the R word, leaving a return possible. Opting instead to say he will spend time with family. This one’s not over.