Non-charter Cup teams that make Chase will have guaranteed starting spot

NASCAR on Tuesday announced a change to Sprint Cup Series race eligibility rules for non-charter teams that qualify for the championship Chase.

Non-charter Cup teams that make Chase will have guaranteed starting spot
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Start: Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota leads
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Start: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota leads

Effectively immediately, any team without a charter that qualifies for the Chase will be awarded a provisional starting position in every Chase race, guaranteeing the team will be able to compete for the championship through the 10-race Chase.

Currently, non-charter teams must qualify each week for the 40-car field based on speed. There are 36 starting positions for chartered teams and four “open” spots in the field.

The team most likely to benefit from the change is the Wood Brothers, whose driver, rookie Ryan Blaney, is currently 17th in the series standings and well within striking distance of making the 16-driver Chase field on points, or automatically with a victory.

In addition, NASCAR announced beginning with this weekend’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, current year owner points will replace practice speeds for determining race eligibility and starting position in the event qualifying is canceled.

Starting in 2017, for the second and third events of the season, practice speeds for non-charter teams will remain the criteria used to determine race eligibility.

“These changes provide a more even competition field for both Charter and Open teams, rewarding strong performances over the course of a season,” Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president, racing operations, said in a statement.

“Earning a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is extremely difficult and requires consistent elite performance. Those teams should be guaranteed an opportunity to race for the title, and this ensures that will be the case.”

The rules remain unchanged in the Xfinity and Truck series.

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