27 January 2011
Radical changes to Sprint Cup scoring confirmed
The number of sets of tyres available to teams for practice and qualifying is to be reduced from six to five; the teams return four sets to Goodyear in exchange for their race allotment, in which the number of sets will vary according to the planned length of the race.
NASCAR also confirmed the introduction of the new "closed loop fuelling system" self-ventilated dump cans which means that the catch-can man - often seen as the most "vulnerable" of the over-the-wall pit crew team - is no longer required, so only six team members will be allowed car-side during pit stops rather than the previous seven.
And the rule change allowing drivers to score championship points in only one of the three NASCAR series (Sprint, Nationwide and Truck) was also officially announced. Drivers will have to choose which series they will earn points from, but can still compete in multiple series and contribute to the owners' title fights in series where they're not competing for a drivers' title.
However, NASCAR have not announced a systematic shortening of race lengths, which has been the subject of much debate in the last week. Speaking at the Sprint Media Tour event, Dale Earnhardt Jr. once again called again for a shortening of most of the Cup races and in particular the season's two 500-mile events at Pocono.
"The Pocono races are entirely too long," Earnhardt said. "I think NASCAR should shoot for a three-hour or three-hour and 15-minute televised event, and try to fit into that sort of time frame." He conceded that "It can't be done at all times. I understand. I think you've got to have races like the 600-miler [Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte] and the Daytona 500 and things like that."
Earnhard was critical of the 2010 decision to boost the spring event at Phoenix from 312 to 378 laps. "Phoenix was a good race. Adding that little bit to it didn't make it better. It only made it longer; it only made it tougher to watch, tougher to witness."
France said in response that some races were already being shortened and that more were planned. "There will be alterations as we go down the road to shorten them up by a little bit. [There are] no expectations from us to make any drastic changes, but 100 miles changes a complexion of a race," he pointed out. "We're going to continue to look at that."
The debate about race length was sparked by comments earlier int he week from Fox Sports chairman David Hill, who was quoted as saying "I think that a lot of the races are too long. I think probably three hours would be ideal."
Earnhardt's team owner, Rick Hendrick, agreed with Hill and added: "I think the season ought to be shorter. It's just so long.
"Football players, I've got some friends, and they get to take months off. We get back from Vegas [at the end of the season], we start testing, and we're working harder in the offseason than in the regular season. If we had three more months off, I think the fans would be eager to watch it again."
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