Changes to Competition Package, Qualifying Format and Playoff System Leave Chicagoland Speedway Poised to Deliver a Thrilling Ride

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NASCAR has taken several steps toward improving the fan experience this offseason, including changes to aerodynamics, qualifying structure and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 14. The changes are intended not only to improve the overall racing product, but to create a competitive and exciting environment for fans to be a part of all season long.

“We are in the midst of historic, positive changes in our sport and I applaud NASCAR for the amount of time, energy and research they have poured into this process,” said Scott Paddock, Chicagoland Speedway president. “Our fans will undoubtedly be the beneficiary of these modifications, and I truly believe they will bear witness to the most exciting season of racing in our facility’s history in 2014.”

The new Sprint Cup competition package, which will not be utilized at restrictor plate race tracks (Daytona and Talladega) is specifically designed to improve competition and passing at 1.5-mile and 2.0-mile tracks. The changes are expected to increase down force on the car, providing greater stability and increased opportunities to pass. Not only that, but the cars are expected to handle better in traffic, creating a stronger environment for side-by-side racing.

The updated competition package will be on full display with NASCAR’s new group qualifying format, which is being instituted across all three series following the Daytona 500. In its new format, qualifying structure will more closely resemble on-track competition and allow for greater excitement leading up to race day. Among several other advantages is the leveling the playing field among competitors. When drivers “catch a cloud,” meaning they qualify when an overcast sky has temporarily cooled the track, they often post quicker times. That advantage will be eliminated in 2014, when cars are on the track together.

The qualifying format will be broken up into two different categories, tracks larger than 1.25 miles and tracks smaller than 1.25 miles, with the exceptions of Daytona and Eldora. The qualifying formats at those tracks will remain unchanged.

Chicagoland Speedway’s two summer weekends of NASCAR racing will consist of three qualifying rounds:

  • The first qualifying elimination round will be 25 minutes in duration and includes all cars/trucks. The 24 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap from the first qualifying round will advance to the second round.
  • The remaining cars/trucks will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.
  • The second qualifying elimination round will be 10 minutes in duration and the 12 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap time will advance to the third and final round. The fastest remaining cars/trucks earn positions 13th through 24th based on their times posted in qualifying in descending order.
  • The third and final qualifying round will be five minutes in duration and the fastest single lap time will determine positions 1st through 12th in descending order.
  • There will be a five-minute break between each qualifying round.

2014 Chase Grid


Teams will need to adjust to the aerodynamic and qualifying changes by the time the Chase kicks off at Chicagoland Speedway in September, because the intensity will ratchet up yet another level for NASCAR’s playoffs. Announced today, the Chase field will expand from 12 to 16 drivers with an emphasis placed on winning one of the first 26 races of the season. Entries into the Chase would be granted to drivers earning a win during the 26-race regular season, and points would be used to either add a driver if there are fewer than 16 winners or cut drivers if there are more than 16 winners.

Beyond including four additional competitors than years past, the Chase will also feature driver eliminations. Eliminations will be held after the third (Challenger Round), sixth (Contender Round) and ninth races (Elimination Round), leading up to a winner-take-all finale at Miami-Homestead in the 10th and final Chase race. A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round. In each elimination round, the four drivers with the lowest point total would be removed, creating a sprint to the finish for the final four racers.

The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Sept. 12-14, will begin with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series under the lights on Friday night. On Saturday, Sept. 13, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will hit the track as the precursor to Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series showdown, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

July’s NASCAR weekend features a rare-off weekend for the Sprint Cup Series, with the Nationwide Series taking center stage in the world of motorsports at Chicagoland Speedway.

The complete 2014 NASCAR schedule at Chicagoland Speedway is as follows:

Date    Event 
Saturday, July 19    NASCAR Nationwide Series & ARCA Racing Series
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 
Friday, Sept. 12    NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 
Saturday, Sept. 13    NASCAR Nationwide Series 
Sunday, Sept. 14    NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 

Tickets for Chicagoland Speedway’s two summer weekends of NASCAR racing go on-sale Sunday, February 23. Tickets, including single-day tickets, can be purchased at  or by calling (888) 629-RACE (7223).

For more information on Chicagoland Speedway, stay connected on Twitter and Facebook.


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