NASCAR announced today a modification in how the champion of its premier series is determined, creating a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ?Chase for the Championship? covering the last 10 races of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.

?The Chase for the Championship will provide a better opportunity for more drivers to win the championship, creating excitement and drama throughout the entire season,? NASCAR President Mike Helton said. ?In addition, the Chase for the Championship will showcase our drivers? talents, increasing the value for all teams and their sponsors.?

After the first 26 races of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season, all drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 and any others within 400 points of the leader will earn a berth in the ?Chase for the Championship.?

No driver outside the top 10 with 10 races remaining has come back to win the championship of NASCAR?s premier series, under the current point system.

All drivers in the ?chase? will have their point totals adjusted. The first-place driver in the standings will begin the chase with 5,050 points; the second-place driver will start with 5,045, etc. Incremental five-point drops will continue through the list of title contenders.

In addition, NASCAR is making a change to the current point system for the first time since the system?s 1975 inception, awarding 180 points to a race winner, compared to the previous award of 175 points. Five-point bonuses for leading a lap and leading the most laps still will be awarded.

The 180-point award will ensure that a race winner gets more points than a race runner-up. This change will be in effect starting this season for NASCAR?s three national series ? NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

At season?s end, every driver who finishes in the NASCAR Top 10 will receive a point-fund payout of at least $1 million, with the champion receiving more than $5 million. In addition, the 11th-place driver in the final standings will receive a $250,000 bonus.

?This new approach to determining our champion has both the drivers and the fans in mind,? Helton said.

?The Chase for the Championship will be a continuation of our season, with heightened drama. It will increase the spotlight on all competitors and increase the value of being in the series for all teams.

?This will be exciting ? and fair. Since 1975, using the current point system, no driver has ever been outside the NASCAR Top 10 with 10 races remaining and come back to win the championship in our premier series. We added the 400-point cutoff to allow drivers outside the top 10 after 26 races to be included in the Chase for the Championship.?

The last time the point system for NASCAR?s premier series was altered was in 1975 when the current system, designed to reward consistency, was introduced. This marks the 11th time since 1949 that the point system has been changed.

The system instituted in ?75 remains virtually intact for NASCAR?s three national series ? aside from the five additional five points for race winners.

In a safety-related move designed to limit the number of damaged cars returning to races merely to accumulate points, NASCAR will increase minimum-speed requirements, in lieu of altering the points breakdown for lower-finishing cars.

NASCAR NEXTEL Points System - 'Did You Know'

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series ?Chase for the Championship? ? FAQ's

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