Fuel & Tires: Coming to the green flag for 2017 racing season

 

David Graham

There is a lot going on in the racing world this week, considering it's only the end of January. Here's a rundown of current goings-on, in bite-size form.

CHANGES AFOOT IN NASCAR

NASCAR unveiled an array of new rules and format changes Monday that will be implemented this season in all three of its national series—the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the newly minted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Instead of making you read a rehashed version of the new format and rules, here it is explained in one minute:

Confused yet?

Additionally, each series will crown a regular season champion prior to the last ten races. That driver, plus 15 others based on wins with ties broken by points, will be eligible for the playoffs (no longer referred to as “The Chase.”) The playoffs will again consist of three rounds of three races with four drivers eliminated after each round. The season finale race will see four drivers racing for the championship.

The number of laps in each of the first two segments will be the same in a race, and the end of the second stage will be approximately at the halfway point of the race.

NASCAR will also no longer allow teams to replace body panels during a race and there will be additional limitations on crash repair. This means you probably won't see drivers go to the garage following a wreck only to return dozens of laps down later in the race.

The NASCAR head honchos insist this is the best thing to happen to NASCAR in a long time and judging by Twitter, many drivers are excited about the changes. Some fans, on the other hand, think this is going to make the races too confusing to follow.

Personally, I am against any kind of manufactured drama in racing, but NASCAR has been doing that for over ten years. I think we're just going to have to wait and see how this all plays out, but it certainly could make things more exciting, which is something NASCAR desperately needs.

The season-opening Daytona 500 is Sunday, Feb. 26, but cars will be on the track for The Clash at Daytona, a non-points race that is run Saturday, Feb. 18. I'll have a preview of The Clash in the coming weeks.

ECCLESTONE OUT AS F1 SUPREMO

After four decades as Formula One's chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone is no longer in control. Liberty Media, a U.S.-based company, has completed its takeover of the series and appointed Chase Carey (who has the best handlebar moustache since Rollie Fingers) to replace the 86-year-old Ecclestone.

F1's new owners feel the series has become stagnated and tired under Ecclestone's control and are looking to add a street race in the United States. The series currently holds the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, but Liberty Media is reportedly looking to add a race on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Miami or Las Vegas.

As with NASCAR, F1 is set to head into the new season with a myriad of changes. Beyond new aerodynamic and engine regulations, the cars themselves will “look meaner” with bigger wings and wider tires. According to the FIA, the governing body of F1, high-speed corner speeds could increase by nearly 25 mph.

We will have to wait until March 26 to find out, when the 20-race season gets underway in Australia.

ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA THIS WEEKEND

The official start of the racing season gets underway Saturday with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The race, held on a 3.56-mile track within Daytona International Speedway, utilizes sections of the road course and portions of the track's oval.

Participants in this year's race include four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon (competing in the race for the first time since 2007) as well as IndyCar regulars Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe. Former race winners in the field include Scott Sharp, Max Angelelli, Scott Pruett, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and the aforementioned Dixon, Kanaan, Bourdais and Rahal.

Coverage starts at 1 p.m. Saturday on FOX. For a full TV schedule of the race, check out foxports.com.

MONTOYA WINS RACE OF CHAMPIONS

Juan Pablo Montoya won't be driving full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season, but he got his year off to a good start by being crowned Champion of Champions in the Race of Champions, held in Miami last weekend. Montoya, who is only competing in the Indianapolis 500 this season, took the title in his first participation in the event.

Among the drivers Montoya beat to take the title were rally and rallycross driver Petter Solberg, X Games gold medalist Travis Pastrana, F1 veteran Felipe Massa and nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen. Other drivers participating included NASCAR's Kurt and Kyle Busch; IndyCar's Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay; and former F1 racers David Coulthard and Jenson Button.

Reigning ROC winner and four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel won the Nations' Cup for Team Germany. The Busch brothers, representing Team USA, finished runners-up to Vettel.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this column

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