Radical and sweeping changes to how NASCAR decides the Sprint Cup Series championship are imminent, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer's Jim Utter.
Among the proposed changes, the most dramatic is NASCAR incorporating eliminations after the third, sixth and ninth playoff races, with the final four drivers having their points reset before the season finale. This would turn the last race of the year into a winner-take-all affair.
NASCAR would also expand the Chase for the Sprint Cup field from 12 drivers to 16, the newspaper reported.
Additionally, the modifications would include how the field is set for the 10-race Chase with a much greater emphasis placed on winning. The field of 16 would initially be set on victories obtained during the regular season. If more than 16 drivers were to win during the regular season NASCAR would use points accumulated as the tiebreaker. If less than 16 drivers have scored a victory, those ranked highest in the standings without a win would then fill out the field.
Essentially winning a race during the regular season would ensure a driver of Chase eligibility.
In a statement Friday night NASCAR acknowledged it was considering several possibilities but would not confirm that changes are forthcoming.
"This dialogue is the final phase of a multi-year process that has included the review of extensive fan research, partner and industry feedback and other data-driven insights," said NASCAR spokesman Brett Jewkes. "NASCAR has no plans to comment further until the stakeholder discussions are complete. We hope to announce any potential changes for the 2014 season to our media and fans very soon."
Numerous times over the last several weeks high-ranking NASCAR officials have strongly hinted that significant changes were on the horizon. NASCAR CEO Brian France said in a Jan. 7 interview on the Motor Racing Network that the sanctioning body wanted to "incentivize risk-taking, racing harder and so on."
"We'll undoubtedly be coming up with things that put the incentive on winning races and competing at the highest level," France said.
Those comments were echoed by NASCAR president Mike Helton, who last week told reporters that "January is going to be full of announcements."