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NASCAR’s new format stresses season-long wins

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When the Valley’s highest attended major event, the popular NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 weekend, highlights Sonoma Raceway’s 2014 Big O Tires racing season from Friday through Sunday, June 20 to 22, there will be two new formats implemented to enhance the fan experience.

After recently instituting a new group-qualifying format, NASCAR announced last week its new championship format, which will put greater emphasis on winning races all season long.

It will also expand the current “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup” field to 16 drivers, and will implement a new round-by-round advancement format that ultimately will reward a battle-tested, worthy champion.

Changes to the championship format include:

• A victory in the first 26 races likely will guarantee a driver a berth in the 10-race “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup” – a change that will put an unprecedented premium on winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race all season long.

• Expanding the field from 12 to 16 drivers, with those drivers advancing to what now will be known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase Grid.

• The number of championship drivers in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship will decrease after every three races, from 16 to start in the Chase Grid; 12 after Chase race No. 3; eight after Chase race No. 6; and four after Chase race No. 9.

• The first three races of the Chase (27-29) will be known as the Challenger Round; races 30-32 will be known as the Contender Round; races 33-35 will be the Eliminator Round; and race No. 36 will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

• A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round.

• Four drivers will enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with a chance for the Cup, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.

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Sonoma Raceway’s 2014 major events schedule will open with the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival on May 17 and 18, then following the NASCAR event will be the annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals weekend July 25 through 27, preceded by the NHRA Division 7 Drag Races July 18 through 20.

The IndyCar Series, featuring the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, comes to the Valley the weekend of Aug. 22 through 24; while the FIA World Touring Car Championship takes place Sept. 20 to 21; and the Classic Sports Racing Group Charity Challenge is set for Oct. 4 and 5.

For details on 2014 tickets and ticket packages, or for general Sonoma Raceway information, call 800-870-RACE (7223), or visit racesonoma.com or ticketmaster.com.