The 2019 NASCAR Cup Series rules package that was announced last month will certainly change the racing. Whether the change will be a positive one for the sport — we’ll have to wait and see.
The package will slow the cars down on tracks larger than 1.2 miles by roughly 200 horsepower, with the exception of the Daytona 500, which will have restrictor plates and 400 horsepower, while Talladega, the other restrictor plate race on the NASCAR schedule, will have 550 horsepower. There also will be ducts that push air through the front wheel wells for 16 races — all tracks larger than 1.5-mile tracks except for the Daytona 500, both Pocono races, Atlanta, Darlington, and the season finale at Homestead. Moreover, NASCAR has significantly increased the rear spoiler — from 2.375 inches high to 8 inches high — and the front splitter will protrude out two inches instead of one-quarter. All of those changes are designed to increase downforce and drag on the cars.
Why is NASCAR taking such a big swing? The fans want to see closer racing with more passing, and NASCAR believes this could create more excitement. In the end, it could attract more manufacturers to consider joining NASCAR or to even return — like Dodge and Pontiac.
If the racing is going to be closer, NASCAR should at least consider making some changes to its playoff system. Right now, 16 drivers make the postseason, with race winners during the first 26 races guaranteed a spot. Here are some proposals.
1. Only the Top 10 make the Playoffs
One of the criticisms of the current format is that it is too easy to make the Playoffs. In many ways, it is. Think about it. 29 drivers ran the entire 36-race schedule in 2018, and 16 of them get to run for a championship? That’s just over half of the field. Drivers are recognized for Top 5s and Top 10s. They are not praised for having Top 16 finishes. Let’s cut it back down to 10.
2. Only race winners make the Playoffs.
MAKE IT DIFFICULT. No more “win and you’re in.” Once you get that first win, now you have to focus on maintaining your spot in the top 10. With the racing expected to be much closer, the stakes are going to get much higher.
Yes. Everyone has to win a race — just one — to make the Playoffs. It doesn’t matter if you are second in points with no wins. You have to win a race. This is an attempt to limit the possibility of a driver with no wins before the cutoff making the postseason. If there are not enough drivers in the top 10 to meet this demand, the remaining spots will be filled beginning with the next driver in the standings with at least one victory.
3. Additional points rewarded for those who win the majors, plus a potential big money reward
There are five majors in NASCAR. We have the Daytona 500, GEICO 500 (Talladega), Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400, and the Southern 500. Those who win stages in any of these races shall be awarded two additional playoff points. Therefore, if you win a stage at Darlington, instead of receiving one playoff point, you will receive three. Five extra playoff points will be awarded to the driver who wins the race, for a total of 10 points. If one driver wins all the stages and the race, they will receive a grand total of 76 points. A driver who wins four of the five majors will receive a $1 million bonus.
4. A driver who wins and fails inspection will be stripped!
No more “encumbered wins.” If a driver wins a race and fails inspection, that driver will receive zero points for the event, and the win will be given to the second-place finisher, given they also pass inspection. For instance, Kevin Harvick won at Texas in the fall but failed inspection. Ryan Blaney, who finished second, was also found to be in violation. In that case, newly-crowned Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano would have been handed the win, which would have been No. 4 for the year had this rule been in place.
5. Fewer gimmicks. Eliminate the lucky dog pass.
Pass the leader or make something else happen. The lucky dog pass should have never been implemented, but the wave around can stay. It’s voluntary after all.
The Playoffs are not popular with everyone, but let’s face reality. Times have changed. This is 2018. The Playoffs are here to stay, but the best we can do is try our best to improve the racing.