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What’s New in 2011: What’s New in 2011

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

Taylor covers NASCAR for RotoWire. He is a three-time winner of the FSWA's Racing Writer of the Year award. He is also a military historian, specifically the World War II U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

As we get ready for the start of the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season, there are many changes to examine in preparation for the start of the new campaign. We're going to take a look at some these changes that we'll see and some we won't when the engines fire up at Daytona in February.

DRIVER CHANGES

We have several team changes for the upcoming 2011 season. There are a handful of teams that are shutting down due to poor economic times and lack of sponsorship. There are a few teams that have merged and contracted in order to stay competitive. A good example of this would be Richard Petty Motorsports scaling back from four teams to just two. Also, a handful of driver/team swaps have taken place; among the most notable are the Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard moves.

DRIVERNEW TEAMOLD TEAM
TBDNo. 09 Phoenix RacingTBD
Brad KeselowskiNo. 2 Penske RacingNo. 12 Penske Racing
Marcos AmbroseNo. 9 Richard Petty MotorsportsNo. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
Kurt BuschNo. 22 Penske RacingNo. 2 Penske Racing
TBDNo. 26 Latitude 43 MotorsportsTBD
Paul MenardNo. 27 Richard Childress RacingNo. 98 Richard Petty Motorsports
TBDNo. 36 Tommy Baldwin RacingTBD
Bobby LabonteNo. 47 JTG Daugherty RacingMultiple Teams in 2010
TBDNo. 71 TRG MotorsportsTBD
Kasey KahneNo. 4 Red Bull RacingNo. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports
Scott RiggsNo. 90 Keyed Up MotorsportsNo. 66 Prism Motorsports


SPRINT CUP SERIES DRIVERS - NATIONWIDE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP ELIGIBILITY

Sprint Cup Series Drivers – Nationwide Series Championship Eligibility
Although nothing has been announced as of the date of this writing, Nationwide Series teams expect that NASCAR will allow Sprint Cup drivers to compete in as many Nationwide races as they want next year, but that they will not earn points toward the series championship. NASCAR has not announced the change, but it appears that championship eligibility has become a hot button issue the last couple seasons. With recent cross-over champions such as Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch winning the Nationwide Series title each season, this potential move is being considered to open up the championship to true Nationwide Series regular drivers.

GARAGE DRESS CODE

NASCAR's is changing the required dress code for visitors in the pits at races in the upcoming season. NASCAR dress code in garage & cold pits now includes: shorts, short sleeve/sleeve-less shirts & open-toed shoes. The rule will not apply to hot pits. In previous years, the policy required everyone to wear long pants, close-toed shoes and shirts that fully covered the shoulders. This move is seen as a “fan friendly” addition and will help foster fan/driver/team interaction on race weekends.

CHASE FOR THE CUP CHANGES

NASCAR is ready to shake things up a bit for the upcoming season. Despite the excitement that was generated by the Johnson/Harvick/Hamlin dash to the championship at Homestead, the Chase will likely undergo some major changes between now and the Daytona 500. Here is a brief summary of a few things that surfaced at the end of this past year, and will be added to the rule books in the new season:

-- NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France has stated in early December that the sanctioning body likely will change its points structure again in 2011. Whether winning becomes more of a factor remains to be seen, but expect big changes to be announced. France is expected to unveil the new system Jan. 21, 2011, during winter testing at Daytona International Speedway. Among the speculated changes rumored: Expanding the Chase field from 12 to 15 drivers, change the Chase to an "elimination" tournament, creating a separate points system for the Chase drivers.

-- The Chase has been static for a couple seasons, but in the interest of stirring fan interest it appears the sanctioning body has some radical ideas in mind for the upcoming season. We won't know these changes until late January, but the focus on competitive racing always seems to be the goal of these rule tweaks. We expect whatever comes to further boost competition in the final 10 races of the season.

SPRING CUP COT NOSE CHANGE

In the wake of last year's popular change from the rear deck lid wing to the read deck lid spoiler, beginning with the 2011 season, NASCAR will introduce a new front valance and splitter combination that should eliminate the need for the braces that hold the splitter in place under the current design. This move is mostly aesthetic in nature and not a functional or technical tweak. Fans have been asking for more brand identity in the Sprint Cup Series cars (similar to what's now seen in the Nationwide Series) and this can only be seen as first step in that direction.

SCHEDULE CHANGES

We've had several significant changes to the 2011 Sprint Cup Schedule. We still maintain the 36-race format that has been the status quo for several seasons now, but the lineup of tracks has been changed by addition and subtraction as well as some date shifts. Here are all of the changes made to this season's schedule:

-- The second race of the season will be held at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 27, a week after the season-opening Daytona 500. PIR replaces Auto Club Speedway in Week 2.

-- Texas Motor Speedway fills in the vacated Phoenix spot on Saturday, April 9. Southern California's Auto Club Speedway will now run its race date on March 27.

-- A new, second Kansas Speedway date follows the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and will be held on Sunday, June 5.

-- For the first time in a decade the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has added a new track to the schedule with a race at Kentucky Speedway. The Kentucky race will be held under the lights on Saturday, July 9.

-- The 2011 "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" – consisting of the season's last 10 races, during which the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is decided – will begin at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 18. Chicagoland's previous race date was in early July, a slot that went to the realigned event at Kentucky. New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which previously had the first Chase date, will now have the second, on Sept. 25.