The Countdown: 9 races to go

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup The Countdown: 9 races to go The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is enjoying its final off weekend of the year until the series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21. Rest assured however, that teams are already...

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup
The Countdown: 9 races to go

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is enjoying its final off weekend of the year until the series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21. Rest assured however, that teams are already thinking about the upcoming Siemens 300 on July 25 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The next time the series heads to New Hampshire -- Sept. 19 -- it will mark the first race in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," the continuation of the 36-race season that will determine the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion.

Only eight races remain for drivers to position themselves inside the Top 10 or within 400 points of the series leader. The off weekend provides a convenient opportunity to brush up on the format for the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" before the excitement begins.

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- Fast Facts

WHAT: A new format to determine the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion.

WHEN: The last 10 races of the 36-race season, starting Sept. 19 at New Hampshire.

THE TRACKS: Sept. 19 -- New Hampshire (1.058 miles); Sept. 26 -- Dover (1 mile); Oct. 3 -- Talladega (2.66 miles); Oct. 10 -- Kansas (1.5 miles); Oct. 16 -- Charlotte (1.5 miles); Oct. 24 -- Martinsville (.526 mile); Oct. 31 -- Atlanta (1.54 miles); Nov. 7 -- Phoenix (1 mile); Nov. 14 -- Darlington (1.366 miles); Nov. 21 -- Homestead (1.5 miles).

THE FORMAT:

The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup will involve drivers in the Top 10 after Race No. 26 (Sept. 11 at Richmond), plus any drivers within 400 points of the standings' leader.

Drivers involved in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup will have their point totals adjusted after the 26th race. The first-place driver in the points will have 5,050; the second-place driver will have 5,045, the third-place driver 5,040, etc.

The adjustment of point totals is used to distinguish the drivers involved in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, in the season's final standings.

After the adjustment of point totals, drivers will continue to compete under the standard point system.

THE FACTS:

There will be more drivers than ever in the running for the championship down the stretch.

There will be more fan interest, with at least 10 drivers in the championship hunt.

All drivers -- not only those involved in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- will continue to compete for race victories, race purses, final positions in the standings and season-ending point-fund money.

The 2004 champion will receive a record point-fund payout of approximately $5.28 million.

Every driver in the final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 will receive at least $1 million from the point fund.

THE CURRENT CONTENDERS:

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 entering New Hampshire:
1. Jimmie Johnson 2720
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2615 (-105)
3. Jeff Gordon 2478 (-242)
4. Tony Stewart 2393 (-327)
5. Matt Kenseth 2321 (-399)
6. Bobby Labonte 2278 (-442)
7. Elliott Sadler 2252 (-468)
8. Kevin Harvick 2229 (-491)
9. Kurt Busch 2211 (-509)
10. Ryan Newman 2173 (-547)

CHASING THE "CHASE"

Drivers nearest 10th place entering New Hampshire:
11. Jeremy Mayfield 2108 (-65)
12. Dale Jarrett 2083 (-90)
13. Jamie McMurray 2068 (-105)
14. Kasey Kahne 2044 (-129)
15. Mark Martin 2035 (-138)
16. Casey Mears 1998 (-175)

Frequently Asked Questions -- Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup

What is the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup?

The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is how NASCAR determines its champion. It consists of the final 10 races of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' 36-race season. Here's how it works: After 26 races of the 36-race season, the top 10 drivers and those within 400 points of the leader, will compete for the championship.

All drivers will continue to have the opportunity to win races, improve in the standings, and increase winnings.

How does The Chase work?

After the September 11 Richmond race, the top 10 drivers -- and any other drivers within 400 points of the leader at that time -- qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Their points are reset to tighten the field before the final 10 races of the year. The driver leading the standings after 26 races will be reset to 5,050 points and those behind him will trail in five-point increments with 10th being reset at 5,005.

The driver who has the most points at the conclusion of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November is the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion.

Question: So, the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is a playoff?

No. The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is not a playoff, which suggests elimination of participants. During the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, all drivers will continue to vie for race victories, improved position in the standings and shares of an increased season-ending point fund.

Why did NASCAR create the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup?

NASCAR created The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup to enhance competition all season long. The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is expected to produce an exciting and competitive championship battle. It provides opportunities for more drivers to compete for the championship. Additionally, the season will create more excitement for more fans since there will be at least 10 drivers competing for the championship down the stretch.

Why should drivers who don't qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup continue on after the 26th race?

First and foremost, all drivers will continue to have the opportunity to win races, improve in the standings, and increase winnings. Additionally, the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup will provide additional value for all teams and sponsors. Increased interest by fans and media will magnify exposure for all sponsors, drivers, and tracks. Each race becomes more important and thus, drives additional fan and media interest.

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup

Next Race: Siemens 300 (Race No. 19 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)

Where: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
When: Sunday, July 25, 2 p.m. (ET).

TV: TNT, 1:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $5,144,134.

Race length: 317.4 miles/300 laps.
Track layout: 1.058-mile paved oval.

2003 winner: Jimmie Johnson.
2003 polesitter: Matt Kenseth.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,720. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,615. 3. Jeff Gordon 2,478. 4. Tony Stewart 2,393. 5. Matt Kenseth 2,321. 6. Bobby Labonte 2,278. 7. Elliott Sadler 2,252. 8. Kevin Harvick 2,229. 9. Kurt Busch 2,211. 10. Ryan Newman 2,173.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin