A new name isn't the only big change coming for the 2017 NASCAR racing season. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series - formally known as the Sprint Cup Series - has undergone some major rule revisions, which could have an equally-major impact on NASCAR betting.
Starting this year, the top three touring series in NASCAR (Cup, Xfinity and Truck) will race in stages with races being segmented and points awarded during each stage.
During the regular season for the Cup series (the first 26 races), there will be three stages in each race. The Top 10 finishers in each of the first two stages will be awarded championship points (10 to 1 each) depending on where they finish. At the end of the race, championship points will still be awarded as they are now, with the overall race winner getting 40, but the remainder of the of the field will be scored on a 35 to 2 scale, and positions 36th to 40 receiving only 1 point.
Winners of each stage will get a single playoff point. Those playoff points will carry forward and be added to the driver's totals when the seeding for the playoffs is determined after the 26th race of the season and will be carried throughout the playoffs. No longer will a driver be awarded a championship point for leading a race, or leading the most laps per race.
The final 10 races, once known as the Chase, are now simply called the playoffs and drivers still need a regular season race win in order to help ensure they are in the playoffs. Now, however, they have even more incentive to win each week. Not only will a win earn valuable playoff points, but the leader of the championship points at the end of the regular season will get 15 playoff points.
During the playoffs there will still be three stages per race and points awarded. Those playoff points (five to the race winner) will carry through to the end of the third round of the playoffs (Round of 8), with the Championship four racing straight-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title as they do now with only the four highest point holders racing with the top finisher among the four winning the title.
Another offseason change is the way drivers can earn more points if they have an accident and have no chance to win a race. Prior to this season, if a driver crashed on the track and was able to get the car back to the garage and repaired, that driver could return to the track, albeit many laps down, and as long as they could maintain the minimum speed mandated by NASCAR for that particular track, they could lap the track in hopes of picking up a position or two prior to the end.
For 2017, that no longer happens. If a driver has an incident on track that results in damage to the car, that driver must do repairs only in the pits. Those repairs can't take any longer than five minutes a time during a stop, and crews will not be able to replace sheet metal. If a driver needs more than five minutes for repairs, they have to leave the pits and come back around again, and the five-minute clock starts all over again. If the car has to go to the garage or repairs can't be made to the point that the minimum speed can't be made, that driver will have to drop out of the race and be scored with a DNF.
None of these rules apply if there is some sort of mechanical issue. In the case of a mechanical issue, repairs can be done in the garage.
While these are big changes for regular fans, for bettors this new system actually presents new opportunities. No longer will drivers be laying back waiting to try and run up front only when the race is getting near the finish.
Drivers now have three chances to win during every race. Not only will they be racing (and you betting on) the race win, but one of the two stages that come prior to the finish. This gives a bettor two more opportunities to bet.
The new stages also present the opportunity for drivers and crews to play the fuel mileage game. Crews will now know about when they will be pitting and getting fuel. For this year's season opening Daytona 500, the first two stages will be 60 laps, the final one 80. A typical fuel runs lasts 46-48 laps at Daytona for Cup cars.
Cars can stretch their mileage out that far, but with the possibility of winning a stage, drivers may try and stay out or do short pit stops (pitting before they need fuel, say after 30 laps).
How these rule changes impact the race outcome and inevitably the NASCAR betting market is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain: there has never been more incentive for drivers to provide winning moments, and there are now more opportunities for you to bet on just who will win, not only the race, but the two stages leading up to the race win.