NASCAR will introduce a wild card element to setting the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field and simplify its points system for 2011 to make it easier for fans, competitors and the industry to understand.

The new points system, which also will be in place for NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck events, will award points in one-point increments. As an example, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, race winners will earn 43 points, plus three bonus points for the win. Race winners also can earn an extra point for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing their total to a possible maximum of 48 points.

All other drivers in the finishing order will be separated by one-point increments. A second-place finisher will earn 42 points, a third-place driver 41 points, and so on. A last-place or 43rd finisher earns one point. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the last-place finisher receives eight points, to account for that series' 36-driver race field.

"Many of our most loyal fans don't fully understand the points system we have used since 1975, so we are simplifying the system. Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said.

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series field will remain at 12 drivers with the top 10 drivers in points following Race No. 26 earning automatic berths. The top 10 drivers will be seeded based on the number wins collected during the first 26 races with race victories earning drivers three bonus points.

The 11th and 12th Chase positions will be respectively filled by "wild card" drivers who earn the most race victories during the first 26 races, provided those drivers are ranked in the top 20 in points. Wild card drivers will not receive bonus points for victories.

"The fans tell us that winning matters the most with them, so we're combining the tradition of consistency in our sport with the excitement that comes along with winning, This makes every race count leading into the 26th race of the season at Richmond, when we set the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup," France explained. Additional series enhancements announced by NASCAR follow:

Pick a Series: Drivers in all three national series now must select the series where they'll compete for a driver championship. Drivers still may compete in multiple series and help their teams win owner titles in series where they're not competing for a driver title. The move helps spotlight young talent in the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

New Qualifying Procedure: The qualifying order will be set based upon slowest to fastest practice speeds. If bad weather cancels qualifying, the final starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds. The same rule book procedures will be used to determine eligibility to start a race. If weather cancels practice sessions, then the starting lineup will be set by points, per the rule book.

Tire Rules Revision: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams now are allowed five sets of tires for practice and qualifying instead of six. They must return four of those sets to Goodyear in order to receive their race allotment, and may keep one set of practice/qualifying tires. Tire allotments for race weekends will vary according to historical performance data.

Closed Loop Fueling System: Introduced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, this goes into effect for all three national series in 2011.It combines a more efficient fueling system with the elimination of the catch-can man, considered the most "vulnerable" pit-crew member. Teams now will use six, rather than seven, over-the-wall pit-crew members.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Car Evolution: NASCAR continues to work with the manufacturers and teams to enhance the look of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car. The cars have new fronts this season and the body makeover will continue to help appeal to fans and aid manufacturer identity.

Kentucky Speedway fans can witness all the announced changes in action July 9 when the Sprint Cup Series makes its first appearance at the 106,000 capacity facility. The race concludes a 2011 season-opening weekend which also features a 225-mile NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race July 7 and a 300-mile NASCAR Nationwide Series event July 8.

The season continues Oct. 1 with a return engagement with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and an Oct. 2 open-wheel doubleheader featuring a 300-mile IZOD IndyCar Series battle and 100-mile Firestone Indy Lights sprint.

Tickets and reserved campsites for all events and weekends can be reserved now by clicking TICKETS and CAMPING.

Story by NASCAR and Mike Schmaltz

- KYS -