There will be plenty of changes when NASCAR begins its Sprint Cup season on Sunday with the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. The regular season will begin with the Daytona 500, the traditional opener, on February 22.
Of course the biggest change has been the adoption of the charter system by the sanctioning body and the reduction of the field to 40 cars. A total of 36 charters have been passed out by NASCAR to teams who have operated full-time for the last three years, meaning there will be four spots open at each of the 36 Cup events this year.
“In the end, we have a model that fits the 21st century and I think will serve us well into the future. If it works properly, and we’re very certain that it will, it’s going to do some things,” said NASCAR Chief Executive Officer Brian France at the announcement. “It’s going to create more opportunities for, as I said, new owners to come into the sport. That’s No. 1. No. 2, it’s going to have the ability to field better, more competitive race teams. That’s what our fans want.”
Additionally, NASCAR has changed the “overtime rule.” The three green-white-checkered attempts have been eliminated in favor of a new procedure call “overtime line,” which will vary by track. Simply, if the race leader passes the overtime line on the first lap before a caution, it will be considered a valid restart. However, if a yellow flag is displayed before the leader reaches that point, another attempt will be made.
Should a caution flag appear after a valid restart, the fields will be frozen and the leader considered the winner.
“I applaud NASCAR for continuing to evolve and strengthen our sport. The rule and format changes will only add to what have been thrilling and extremely competitive racing here at Auto Club Speedway,” said Daytona track president David Allen. “I can’t wait to see the story unfold.”
But the real focus will fall on the 36 teams with charters, who are guaranteed a starting position. Already, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing have purchased charters for Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch, respectively. There are others who will complete transfers before the start of the Daytona 500.
However, the famed Woods Brothers team did not receive a charter as they have been part-time the last few seasons. In 2016, they will be aligned with Penske Racing, which makes them strong contenders to earn one of the four open positions.
“We can’t express enough how proud and thankful we are for the overwhelming expression of support for our team. NASCAR has pressed the reset button on the ownership structure and we hope it takes the sport in a positive direction,” the team said after the announcement. “We have endured challenges throughout our 66 years and will undoubtedly face more in the future, but that’s what makes our team unique.”
The charters are good for nine years and may be leased once every five years. Additionally, charter teams will get a great share of revenue. NASCAR is under a 10-year, P4.4-billion television contract.