NASCAR is making a change to its playoff format.

The Chase for the Cup will now feature 16 drivers with elimination rounds eliminating four drivers every three races until four drivers are left to compete for the championship in Homestead-Miami.

This a change from the current Chase format where 12 drivers compete to earn the most points over the 10-race final stretch.

“We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race – all of which is exactly what fans want,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, in a news release. “We have looked at a number of concepts for the last three years through fan research, models and simulations, and also maintained extensive dialogue with our drivers, teams and partners. The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be thrilling, easy to understand and help drive our sport’s competition to a whole new level.”

Here is how the new format will work, according to NASCAR:

  • A victory in the first 26 races likely will guarantee a driver a berth in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- a change that will put an unprecedented premium on winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race all season long
  • Expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, with those drivers advancing to what now will be known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase Grid
  • The number of championship drivers in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship will decrease after every three Chase races, from 16 to start in the Chase Grid; 12 after Chase race No. 3; eight after Chase race No. 6; and four after Chase race No. 9
  • The first three races of the Chase (27-29) will be known as the Challenger Round; races 30-32 will be known as the Contender Round; races 33-35 will be the Eliminator Round and race No. 36 will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship
  • A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round
  • Four drivers will enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with a chance for the Cup, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.

NASCAR will also be changing how they determine who enters the Chase.  Starting this season, the top 15 Chase positions will go to the drivers with the most wins through the first 26 races.  Those 15 drivers must also finish in the Top 30 in points and have attempted to start every race.  The 16th spot will go to the points leader, if the points leader has not won a race.  That provision only applies to the points leader.

If there are fewer than 16 different race winners, the rest of the field will be filled by the highest points earners.  If there are more than 16 winners, ties will be broken first by win total, then by points.

Drivers who win a race in each playoff round will earn an automatic bid into the next playoff round.  Otherwise, drivers with the most driver points will advance to the next round.  Bonus points for wins will apply to the point totals like they have in recent years.  The final race will feature no points and the champion and season positions second through fourth will be determined by the finishing position in Homestead-Miami.

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