NASCAR

NASCAR's championship format changes

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WHAT'S NEW: NASCAR on Thursday announced a new elimination-style format for the Sprint Cup championship.

WHO MAKES THE CHASE: Instead of 12, 16 drivers will make the Chase for the championship, which still includes the final 10 races of the year. A win in one of the 26 regular-season races virtually guarantees a driver a spot in the Chase field. Other Chase qualifiers will be determined based on point standings.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Once the Chase begins, there will be three elimination rounds - the ''contender,'' ''challenger'' and ''eliminator'' rounds - each consisting of three races. Four drivers will be eliminated from title contention after each round. A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches a spot in the next round. Ultimately, four drivers will compete in the season finale at Homestead in a winner-take-all championship race. The highest finisher of the four wins the title.

WHY THE CHANGE: NASCAR CEO Brian France said purpose was threefold: To place an added emphasis on winning races, to make the format easier for fans to understand and to allow more drivers into the Chase.

WILL IT WORK: Time will tell. This is NASCAR's fourth significant change to the format in the last 10 years, but clearly this is the boldest move. It puts NASCAR in the company of other sports with an elimination-style format, including the NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA basketball.

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