As drivers prepare for the 2011 Bud Shootout on Saturday, and reporters at Media Days spoke to driver after driver, NASCAR announced that it would make a historic technological change in the 2012 Sprint Cup season: Fuel injection.NASCAR confirmed on Friday that, after testing in non-competitive environments in 2011, the Sprint Cup series will make the change from carburetors to fuel injection systems in 2012.
Carburetors have been used in NASCAR racing since the 1949 inception of the sport. NASCAR has continued with the carburetor system over fuel injection systems, largely because of the fear that fuel injection systems would be more susceptible to tampering, and could result in significant competitive advantages for some teams. But, as announced by NASCAR today, McLaren Electronic Systems and Freescale Semiconductor will develop the systems to be used in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The company has been supplying fuel injection systems for both the Indy Racing League and Formula one for several years.
Carburetors will continue to be used in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.
“It was time,” said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton in a statement today. “We feel like this is something that the timing is right for. Everybody [in the garage area] agreed to that.”
Other changes will affect Sprint Cup in 2011, including:
- While the basic 12-driver Chase format will remain, the final two spots will be determined not by points, but by the number of races won during the first 26 races of the year. Positions 11 and 12 will be “wild card” qualifiers and will go to non-top-10-ranked drivers with the most victories as long as they are ranked in the top 20 in points.
- Top 10 Chase drivers will continue to be seeded based on victories during the first 26 races, with each win worth 3 bonus points; wild card drivers will not receive bonus points.
- A new points system for all NASCAR national series will award points in one-point increments—race winners in the Cup Series, for example, will earn 43 points, plus bonus points for the victory, while all other drivers will receive points in one-point decreasing increments—42 points for second place, 41 points for third, and so on, until the 43-place driver, who would receive a single point.
"Many of our most loyal fans don't fully understand the points system we have used to date," continued France, referencing the system that has been in use since 1975. "So, we are simplifying the points system to one that is much easier to understand. Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow."
Other altered rules announced by NASCAR for the 2011 season include:
- Pick a Series: Drivers in all three national series now must select the series where they'll compete for a drivers' championship. Drivers still may compete in multiple series and help their teams win owners' titles in series where they're not competing for a drivers' title. The move helps spotlight young talent in the Nationwide and Truck series.
- New Qualifying Procedure: The qualifying order will be set based upon slowest-to-fastest practice speeds.
- Inclement Weather Qualifying: If bad weather cancels qualifying, the final starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds. The same rule book procedures will be used to determine eligibility to start a race. If weather cancels practice sessions, then the starting lineup will be set by points, per the rule book.
- Tire Rules Revision: Cup teams now are allowed five sets of tires for practice and qualifying instead of six. They must return four of those sets to Goodyear in order to receive their race allotment, and may keep one set of practice/qualifying tires. Tire allotments for race weekends will vary according to historical performance data.
- Closed Loop Fueling System: Introduced in the Truck Series, this goes into effect for all three national series in 2011. It combines a more efficient fueling system with the elimination of the catch-can man, considered the most "vulnerable" pit-crew member. Teams now will use six, rather than seven, over-the-wall pit-crew members.
- Evolution of Cup Car: NASCAR continues to work with the manufacturers and teams to enhance the look of the Cup Series car. The cars have new fronts this season and the body makeover will continue to help appeal to fans and aid manufacturer identity.
The Budweiser Shootout is scheduled for Saturday, 8 p.m. (ET) at the Daytona International Speedway; fans can watch the race on FOX.