WJTV News Channel 12 - Inside the world of NASCAR, a preview of the 2014 season

Inside the world of NASCAR, a preview of the 2014 season

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It's one of the most popular sports in all of Eastern North Carolina. In fact, some people in our part of the state build their Sundays around the big race rather than a big football game. It's a way of life, of course we're talking about NASCAR and this should be the most exciting season yet.

In a little over two weeks the NASCAR season begins down at Daytona and with the shift in format it may feel like a new sport. 9 on Your Side Sports went to the home of racing to find out what the big names think of the big changes.

From qualifying all the way to the playoffs, everything's going to look different this year in NASCAR.

" The drivers will race to whatever format we have, " said Brian France, NASCAR's Chairman. "If that's a consistency based model that's how they will try to adapt because that might be the best way to achieve their goal. This is pretty clear, you have to win."

If you win you are in the postseason, otherwise known as the Chase, no matter your place in the Sprint Cup Standings. That could be rough for those who finish well without picking up the checkers, meanwhile for others, one good race could change everything.

"You can be a little more inconsistent and still have a shot to be there at the end and make the Chase easier, " said Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 car. "I just think that overall it could help me a little bit."

"You can have a bad race and it doesn't kill you. I think it's going to be exciting, it's going to make every race in the Chase mean something," said Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 car.

There will be 16 drivers in the Chase this year with knockout stages through that 10 race span. At Homestead (the final race of the year) there will only be 4 drivers left in a winner take all scenario for the championship.

"I love the knockout qualifying, I love the direction it looks like the points Chase is going in because I think it all is going to be very very exciting for our sport and for our fans," said 4-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon.

"When I look at the years we've won the championships we won a lot of races in the Chase and the way this format plays out we would have that opportunity come Homestead," said defending champ Jimmie Johnson. " So this could be something very good for us."

Could this overhaul be a way to keep Jimmie Johnson out of the ultimate victory lane? Many drivers hope that's the case but fans may not. The No. 48 car has won 6 of the last 8 NASCAR titles and one more ties him with the all-time leaders, Dale Earnhardt and the "King" Richard Petty.

"Anybody who's accomplished what he's done you've got to admire," said Petty. "He knows he's the number 1 guy but he tries to downplay it as much as he can."

Those are just a few of the storylines going into this season. Many people are also talking about the crowded house over at Stewart-Haas Racing. Can new team member Kevin Harvick combine with Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, and Tony Stewart for a championship run? Some believe their egos wont be able to coexist.

Or could this finally be the year of Dale Earnhardt Jr? The most popular driver in NASCAR has failed to live up to the hype in recent years but maybe that could all change.

"At Hendrick Motorsports we've always been one of the teams that seems to get ahead of the curve," said Earnhardt Jr. "I feel pretty confident going into this year no matter what the changes are. Our particular team, the 88 car, has gotten better in the last 3 years each year so we expect to keep that trend."

Whatever happens it will be an exciting year with plenty of controversy, crashes, and even a few checkers.

For all those interviews check out 9 on Your Side at 6! Be sure to come back at 11 for a trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame....it's all here on 9 on Your Side!




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