Monster Year Ahead
NASCAR Changes Add Interest to Cup Series
Having committed to a multi-year agreement, Monster Energy will become only the third entitlement sponsor in NASCAR premier series history, following RJ Reynolds and Sprint/Nextel. As part of the agreement, the brand has the naming rights for the prestigious annual NASCAR All-Star Race and also becomes the Official Energy Drink of NASCAR.
“Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR,” said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. As part of the agreement, Monster Energy will engage with fans in creative, innovative ways at all premier series tracks.”
NASCAR also unveiled a new brand identity that replaces the bar mark used by the sanctioning body since 1976. The new brand mark and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series identity signify a new era. The NASCAR branding pays tribute to its storied history, incorporating elements of all four previous marks since the company’s inaugural 1948 season.
Changing of Guard Begins
The exodus of upper-echelon Cup drivers that began with Jeff Gordon’s retirement from fulltime competition at the end of 2015 continued with Tony Stewart last year. At age 47, Greg Biffle lost his ride in an offseason Roush downsizing, and Carl Edwards unexpectedly walked away from JGR at age 37. Speculation has it that Jimmie Johnson would call it quits should he win an eighth championship. Coming back from head trauma at 42, how long will Dale Jr. stay in the No. 88? Matt Kenseth, 44, Kevin Harvick, 41, and Jamie McMurray, 40, have entered the retirement rumor mill. Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer, who is moving into the Stewart-Haas No. 14, also are mentioned.
Several young guns are knocking on success’ door. The onboard up-and-comers include Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Kyle Larsen. Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suáraz is sliding into Edwards’ seat. Justin Allgaier and Ty Dillon are waiting in the wings for an opportunity to open. Several others are gaining valuable experience in the quest to move up to the top series. Look to the driver development programs of top-tier Cup teams to see others who are being groomed to take the wheel in the years ahead.
New Playoff Points System
NASCAR announced an enhanced competition format that will be implemented in all three of its national series. Increasing the sense of urgency and emphasizing aggressive racing and strategy, the race format will deliver more dramatic moments over the course of an entire race and season, with playoff point incentives on the line throughout. The 10-race playoff will no longer be called “The Chase.”
The enhanced format consists of the following:
Races will have three stages, with championship point 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). The Championship 4 will race 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 final 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. Positions 36 – 40 receive 1 point.
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 earning 10, third earning 8, fourth earning 7, and so on. All playoff points will count through the end of the Round of 8. Learn more at NASCAR.com.
Toyota teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will arrive at Daytona wheeling new 2018 Camry race cars. Toyota’s two powerhouse organizations, Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing, were involved in the development process. Chevrolet will introduce a new race car in NASCAR’s top division for the 2018 season. Stewart-Haas Racing surprisingly switched to Fords for 2017.
NASCAR updated its rulebook for all three national series. The restrictor plate hole is reduced 1/64 to 7/8-in. at Daytona and Talladega. A roof exit hatch is now mandatory at superspeedway events, optional at others. A stronger foot box results from a toe-board absorbing material at superspeedway events. To decrease downforce, the Cup Series spoiler size has been reduced to 2.37 inches from 3.50 inches. Drivers in all three series will also be allowed to wear biometric devices (i.e. activity trackers) in the cockpit.
Cup teams will also be given fewer sets of tires in 13 of the season’s 36 races as follows: Daytona, Phoenix, Fontana, Martinsville, Bristol, Kansas, Kentucky, Bristol, Chicagoland (playoff), Kansas (playoff), Martinsville (playoff), Phoenix (playoff), Homestead-Miami (playoff). More sets of tires will be allowed in eight races: Talladega, Sonoma, Daytona, New Hampshire, Watkins Glen, Darlington, New Hampshire (playoff), Talladega (playoff).