NASCAR has tweaked its qualifying and points formats to go along with its reduction of Sprint Cup fields from 43 to 40 and its new guarantee of starting spots to 36 cars. It also has changed its rules regarding the "overtime" green-white-checkered procedure as it prepares to open the season this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR announced Tuesday that it had agreed to license -- it is using the word "charter" -- 36 teams across 19 organizations that would get guaranteed starting spots and revenue for the next nine years.
In doing so, NASCAR had to come up with a way to fill the other four spots, and it announced those procedures Thursday.
For the Daytona 500, the final four spots will be determined by a mix of qualifying speeds set in single-car qualifying laps Sunday and the 150-mile qualifying races Feb. 18. The top non-charter team in each of the two qualifying races earns a spot in the Daytona 500 field with the final two spots going to the two remaining non-charter teams with the fastest times in qualifying Sunday.
For all other races, the four spots will go to the four top non-charter finishers in the multiple-round group qualifying format. If qualifying is rained out, practice speeds would determine those four spots. If no practice is conducted before qualifying, then those four spots would be determined by owner points with 2015 owner points being used until the fourth race of the year.
There are no longer any provisionals based on owner points nor being a past champion.
NASCAR also will award points on a 40-to-1 scale, with the winner getting 40 points and last place getting one point, with bonuses available for winning the race, leading a lap or leading the most laps.
In its new overtime procedure, NASCAR scrapped its cap on its limit of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish (and only one at restrictor-plate tracks). Under the previous rule, the race would be restarted if the yellow came out during the first lap of the two-lap dash to the finish. Now the race will only be restarted if the yellow comes out before the leader reaches a designated line on the first lap following the restart. If the leader passes that line and the caution comes out, the field is frozen (drivers must maintain a reasonable speed) and the checkered flag would wave the next time by.
The overtime line will likely be somewhere on the backstretch at all tracks. Last October at Talladega, the race finished when Kevin Harvick, trying to limp a wounded car in trying to keep his spot in the Chase, ended up causing an accident just after the green dropped on the restart.
"We want the fans to be able to see a green finish, and we want them to certainly be able to see a restart in overtime, so we knew that just having them take the green didn't really work," NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O'Donnell said. "We talked to the drivers, ... recognizing how do we not repeat what happened at Talladega, give the fans what they want but also have a balance, balancing safety and great finishes."