Chase format likely to see changes

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France has hinted that changes to the Chase championship play-off format will take place - and expects NASCAR to gradually implement biofuels within the next few years

Chase format likely to see changes

Speaking at Daytona International Speedway, France said the sanctioning body is carefully looking at trying to tweak the current play-off format, which consists of 10 races where all drivers compete, but only those in the top 12 spots in the standings following the 26th race of the regular season are eligible to become the Sprint Cup champion.

Since the format was first implemented in 2004, reigning champion Jimmie Johnson has dominated the series, winning four out of six championships decided under the play-off system.

Although France did not disclose any specifics about the potential changes, it is believed that some kind of elimination process would be one of the options, narrowing the number of drivers eligible for the title as the play-off develops.

"We're looking at it pretty carefully," France said. "This is not uncommon, by the way. We look at it every year.

"The main reason is we want to make sure it's giving us the biggest impact moments it was designed to do.

"It's different because there's 43 teams, not one or two, two or three, some tournament thing... We're in a situation where in some cases winning can't be possible. So we can't have a winner-take-all, per se, like some of the other play-off systems.

"On the other hand, we'd like to have it balanced correctly. We're going to look at that more carefully than ever because we also have some historical things we thought would have allowed winning and big moments on a big stage. Maybe they did or maybe they didn't. What's important is we got a chance to look at a lot more seasons than we have up until now.

"We're happy with the Chase. It just means that if we can enhance it in a pretty significant way, we may do that. So that will be the thing that we decide in the next couple of months."

France also said ethanol is being considered as one of the options for NASCAR to enter the biofuel era, although he does not have a timeframe set for its implementation yet, which he expects to to be gradual.

"Ethanol, I don't know that we'll see it in 2011 as a biofuel. It's certainly an option that is interesting," France said. "There's a lot of thought that goes into it. It will be important for us to evolve the fuel source in the national divisions over time.

"We'll do that with Sunoco, for sure, trying to respect and value their set of rights. So we'll have to put all of that together. I don't know what will happen in '11. We're working on a lot of things. But what I can tell you is we will have a very slow, very steady, and sometimes with big impact, but steady march towards this sport looking and feeling and acting more green."

Despite a decrease in overall attendance and TV ratings in the US, which he said are consequences of numerous factors ranging from the economy to alternative high profile sports events worldwide, France declared himself happy with the following the series continues to get on American soil, which he rated at an average of 14 to 15 million people every race weekend.

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