LOS ANGELES -- Major changes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' points system, the sport's Chase for the Cup title playoff and in prerace qualifying were unveiled Wednesday by NASCAR Chairman Brian France.
The changes, which were expected after NASCAR recently disclosed various proposals to racing teams, are intended to boost interest in NASCAR's premier series, make its points system easier to follow and boost the impetus on winning races.
While still among the most popular sports, NASCAR racing has seen declines in attendance and television ratings and hopes the changes help reverse the trend.
Each Cup race has 43 cars, and the new sliding-scale system awards 43 points to the winner, 42 to the second-place car and so forth down to one point for the 43rd-place car, France said in a news conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.
"One position on the track is worth one point," France said.
Race winners also get three bonus points for the win, and they can earn an additional point for leading a lap and another for leading the most laps. Hence, the race winner can earn a maximum of 48 points that day.
The previous system, which had been in place for 35 years, also used a sliding scale and awarded 185 points to the winner down to 34 for last place. Five bonus points also were awarded to the driver who led the most laps and to any driver who led a lap.
In tweaking the Chase, France said the new system allows the top 10 drivers in points after 26 races to advance to the 10-race Chase playoff. Also, two "wild card" drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins that season -- and who rank among the top 20 in points at the time -- will join the Chase as well.
Previously, the top 12 drivers in points made the Chase. Last year, that excluded drivers such as Jamie McMurray, who won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 but wasn't consistent enough throughout the year to finish among the top 12 in points. He finished 14th as Jimmie Johnson went on to win a record fifth consecutive Cup title.
Now, "you can get hot late" with wins during the regular season and get in the Chase, which would "create even more excitement and drama," France said.
He also said the order in which Cup drivers qualify would be based on the slowest to fastest speeds in practice; before it was done by a drawing.
If bad weather cancels qualifying, the starting lineup will be based on practice speeds; previously it was based on the drivers' point standings.