Chase for the Championship races directly through
Darlington, SC - (January 20, 2004) It's official: The old adage
maintaining that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" has been proven
false. Darlington Raceway is a perfect example.
Much of the racing world was surprised by a summer 2003 realignment
announcement stating that the Mountain Dew Southern 500, NASCAR's most
historic event, would relinquish its 54-year traditional Labor Day weekend
running for a more temperate November date in 2004.
Then, in August, Darlington Raceway announced plans for installation of a
facility lighting system, and the date of its first night race. The NASCAR
Craftsman Truck Series will give fans their first look at Darlington "under
the lights" on Friday, November 12.
Now, an announcement by NASCAR on January 20 has positioned the Mountain Dew
Southern 500 as the ninth in a new, 10-race end-of-season championship run,
the ultimate line in the sand between a competitor's will to win and the
NEXTEL Cup Series championship trophy.
The track "Too Tough To Tame" just added a new set of teeth.
The modified system will cover the final 10 races of the 36-race NASCAR
NEXTEL Cup Series season. After the first 26 races, all drivers in the
NASCAR Top 10 and any other drivers within 400 points of the leader will
earn a spot in what has been named the "Chase for the Championship."
All drivers in the chase will have their point totals adjusted. The
first-place driver in the standings will begin the chase with 5,050 points.
The second-place drive will start with 5,045, and incremental five-point
drops will continue through the list of title contenders.
Additionally, NASCAR is making a change to the current point system for the
first time since its 1975 inception. Race winners will now be awarded 180
points rather than 175 points, ensuring that a race winner will get more
points than a runner-up. Five-point bonuses for leading a lap and for
leading the most laps will still be awarded.
This change will apply to all three of NASCAR's national series, the NEXTEL
Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series.
Darlington Raceway's tripleheader Mountain Dew Southern 500 weekend now
stands poised as what Raceway president Andrew Gurtis describes as "the
penultimate race weekend of the 2004 season."
Among the racing community, Darlington is either famous or infamous,
depending on whom you ask. Drivers like Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Bobby
Labonte describe it as their favorite place to race, a true "racer's
racetrack." Others, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Rusty Wallace, speak of
Darlington in somewhat less glowing terms.
One fact is now unavoidable, however; love it or hate it, in order to lift
that championship trophy in Miami, you must first deal with Darlington.
NASCAR president Mike Helton described the Chase for the Championship as, "a
continuation of our season, with heightened drama. It will increase the
spotlight on all competitors and increase the value of being in the series
for all teams.
"This will be exciting - and fair," Helton continued. "Since 1975, using the
current points system, no driver has ever been outside the NASCAR Top 10
with 10 races remaining and come back to win the championship in our premier
series. We added the 400-point cutoff to allow drivers outside the Top 10
after 26 races to be included in the Chase for the Championship."
The 2004 Mountain Dew Southern 500 weekend will feature the Darlington 200
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday, evening, November 12, the
South Carolina 200 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, November 13, and
the 55th running of the legendary Mountain Dew Southern on Sunday, November
14. Start time for the Mountain Dew Southern 500 has not yet been announced.
On March 19-21, 2004, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series returns to the site of
its closest-ever finish, the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400. Race day is Sunday,
March 21.The weekend also includes the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 NASCAR Busch
Series race on Saturday, March 20, and Bud Pole qualifying for the NASCAR
NEXTEL and Busch Series on Friday, March 19.
For tickets or more information, call 843.395.8499, or log onto