Chase for the Sprint Cup
The Chase for the Sprint Cup, originally known as "The Chase for the Championship" during its creation, and then "The Chase for the Nextel Cup" (from 2004 to 2007) is the championship system used in NASCAR's top division, the Sprint Cup Series, akin to the postseason in American professional sports leagues. The Chase was announced on January 21, 2004, and first used during the 2004 Nextel Cup season. The format used from 2004 to 2006 was modified slightly starting with the 2007 season.
Beginning with the 2008 Sprint Cup Series, the Chase became known by its new name as a result of the merger of Nextel Communications with Sprint Corporation, As of 2015, the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be a part of NASCAR on NBC as it will have the rights to obtain the final 20 races including the Chase of the Sprint Cup, for many years, all ten of the Chase of the Sprint Cup races used to air on NASCAR on ESPN for many years before its departure, A major change to the qualifying criteria was instituted in 2011, along with a major change to the points system.
Even more radical changes to the qualifying criteria, and to the format of the Chase itself, were announced for the upcoming 2014 Sprint Cup Series.
As of 2014, the 10-race Chase involves 16 drivers chosen primarily on wins during the "regular season"; if fewer than 16 drivers win races during the regular season, the remaining field is filled on the basis of regular season points. These drivers compete against each other while racing in the standard field of 43 cars. The driver with the most points after the final 10 races is declared the champion.
The current version of the Chase was announced by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France on January 30, 2014. The current Chase format is the fourth since the Chase was introduced for the 2004 season, with significant changes made in both 2007 and 2011. The 2014 change is the 14th time since 1949 that the point system had been changed, although these latest changes only affected the Chase itself.
Starting in the 2004 season, after the first 26 races of the season, all drivers in the Top 10 and any others within 400 points of the leader will earn a berth in the Chase. All drivers in the Chase will have their point total adjusted. The first-place driver in the standings begins the chase with 5,050 points; the second-place driver starts with 5,045, etc. Incremental five-point drops continue through the list of title contenders.
In 2007, NASCAR expanded the field of contenders to the top 12 drivers in the points standings after the first 26 races. Each drivers' point total reset to 5,000 points, with a ten-point bonus for each race won. The provision letting all drivers within 400 points of the leader was dropped.
Brian France explained why NASCAR made the changes to the chase: