One of the biggest surprises of the short track racing offseason was the announcement of a championship chase format by the Champion Racing Association for the ARCA/CRA Super Series and JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour for the 2017 season and beyond.
The two series will have a championship format similar to what is used in the top three levels of NASCAR. A four-race playoff will decide the champion in the Super Series and JEGS Tour.
Each series will have eight drivers competing in the championship chase. The top eight drivers in wins (then points) who have competed in at least 75-percent of the races are eligible.
“I like it,” said Brandon Oakley, who finished third in JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour points. “I guess it’ll be the same as all the stuff we watch on TV. You just have to have the mentality to go out there and win. I think consistency pays off but you have to go out and try to win.”
Oakley has a driver development program, so he will not be racing the full All-Stars Tour or Super Series schedule. However, his driver in the All-Stars Tour, 14-year-old Tyler Garner, will be racing the series full time, and Oakley will serve as his spotter and crew chief.
“I’m kind of in a situation where I wish like hell I was running the JEGS Tour again now,” Oakley said. “But I’ve got a 14-year-old running the full JEGS Tour. I’m excited for him and I think (the chase) will be a good deal.”
Another young driver, 13-year-old Carson Hocevar, will be attempting to run the full JEGS Tour schedule in 2017. He will be competing for Rookie of the Year and the championship.
“I think it's really cool,” Hocevar said. “It set up a new form of points racing that we have never seen before for a short track series. I think it will be a very intense race between the final four at Winchester for the finale, which should make a great race for the fans.”
“They’re trying to get more people to race all year and get in, but I think the same cars are still probably going to show up,” said Dalton Armstrong, who finished second in Super Series points. “The format is neat, though. It’ll make you go for wins more.”
Cody Coughlin won both the ARCA/CRA Super Series and JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour championships in 2016, the first driver to accomplish both championships in one season.
Had the championship chase format been in place in 2016, Armstrong would have won the Super Series championship and Austin Kunert would have won the All-Stars Tour championship.
However, Coughlin entered the final weekend at Winchester Speedway knowing that he just needed to finish ninth to clinch the Super Series championship, and he just needed to start the All-Stars Tour race to win that title. With a chase format, Coughlin and his team presumably would have approached the weekend differently knowing that they would have needed to win both races to guarantee the championship.
That said, Armstrong said he would have enjoyed having the chase format in place in 2016 when he went to the Winchester 400 and finished one spot better than Coughlin.
“That would have kind of helped I guess,” Armstrong said. “It’s cool that you can go to the last race and have a chance even if one guy dominates all year long. I think it’s cool that it’ll come down to that one race.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: R&S Racing Photos
ARCA/CRA Super Series Championship Chase Schedule
|8/26||Berlin Raceway (MI)|
|9/3 - 9/4||Winchester Speedway (IN)|
|9/16||Toledo Speedway (OH)|
|10/7 - 10/8||Winchester Speedway (IN)|
JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Championship Chase Schedule
|9/3||Winchester Speedway (IN)|
|9/9||Owosso Speedway (MI)|
|9/23 - 9/24||Lucas Oil Raceway (IN)|
|10/6||Winchester Speedway (IN)|