CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After several days of speculation, NASCAR announced sweeping changes to its championship points system and race formats beginning with the 2017 season.

Starting with the season-opening events at Daytona International Speedway in February, every race in NASCAR's top three national touring series will consist of three stages that will award points for performance, as well as a new system of awarding playoff points to drivers.

Several drivers were a part of the announcement, including former NASCAR premier series champions Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon. 

Despite there being some possible confusion with the new format, Keselowski and Hamlin both think it will quickly disappear when cars hit the track. 

"Just wait until you see it on the race track," Keselowski said. "It will be the best racing you've ever seen." 

Hamlin said for fans it's less about knowing "how" it works and just knowing that it will improve the product. The defending Daytona 500 champion said this system should be appealing for fans who like every race making a difference. 

"You don't need to know how a watch works, you just need to know the time," Hamlin said. "You're going to see better racing on the race track and that's all that matters."

2017 NASCAR race format

Each race will consist of three stages. The first two stages are expected to be approximately 25% of the race's total distance with the third stage being the remaining 50%. The stage lengths have not been officially announced by NASCAR or track officials. 

  • The first two stages will reward championship driver points to the top-10 finishing drivers of each stage: The winner will receive 10, second-place will receive 9, third-place will receive 8, etc. These are not to be confused with playoff points, which will be awarded to stage and race winners.
  • The winner of each of the first two stages will receive one playoff bonus point. If a driver wins both stages, he or she will receive two playoff points.
  • The winner of the third and final stage will be the race winner and will receive five playoff points, which is increased from the three bonus points awarded for each race win under the old championship format.
  • Championship driver points will be awarded as follows for the third segment: The winner will receive 40 points. Second-place through 35th will receive points on a 35-to-2 scale. Positions 36-40 will receive one point. NASCAR has eliminated bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps.

2017 Race Example

Driver A wins Stage 1 of the Daytona 500. Driver A will be awarded 10 championship driver points and 1 playoff bonus point. Drivers that finish positions 2-10 will receive 9-to-1 driver point(s) based on their finish. Only Driver A will receive a playoff point. 

Driver B wins Stage 2 of the race. He or she will receive 10 driver points and the prized playoff bonus point. Drivers that positions 2-10 will receive 9-to-1 point(s) based on their finish. Only Driver B gets the playoff point. 

Driver C wins the third stage of the race. That driver will receive 40 championship points and five playoff bonus points. These points will be added to any driver points earned in the first two stages. 

If a driver sweeps all three stages, they will earn maximum points. These would consist of 60 driver points plus 7 playoff points for the race win and each stage victory. 

2017 NASCAR Championship Format

NASCAR officials confirmed that its system to determine the champion in all three series will no longer be called The Chase, replaced simply with the playoffs. The number of drivers eligible for NASCAR's playoffs will remain the same as last year.

As a new twist, NASCAR announced that the Duel 150-mile qualifying events at Daytona will now offer championship driver points. The top 10 will receive points on a 10-1 scale (10 for first, 9 for second, 8 for third, etc.). However, the winner of each Duel will not receive a playoff bonus point.

Playoff points: NASCAR announced the addition of playoff points, which take the place of bonus points that were awarded to race winners in past championship formats. These points will carry over through each round of the playoffs until the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

How to earn playoff points: Race win (5), Stage win (1), finish in the top 10 of the regular season points standings. To offer a reward to perform throughout the season's first 26 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the points leader after the season's 26th race will be declared the regular season champion. Playoff points will be awarded to the top 10 drivers in the points before the first race of the playoffs. They are awarded as follows: 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

The Championship Four drivers will head to Homestead and race straight-up for the title, just as in years' past. The highest-finishing championship four driver at Homestead will be declared the season champion.