New stage format highlights Daytona 500, seats sell-out for 59th annual "Great American Race"

NATIONAL - It's the most iconic race in all of stock car racing, and this year it comes with a new twist.

The Daytona 500 has long been known as NASCAR's premiere series event. The "Super Bowl of Auto Racing",  the race has produced 37 different winners since 1959 and solidified their standing in stock car racing history. But while rooted in tradition, new rules will come into play for this year's "Great American Race".

For the first time in its' history, the race will be run in three stages, 60, 60 and 80 laps, with points incentives to the top finishers in each segment. It's an infusion of a new-school format, intended to encourage more racing throughout the event.

At the end of each segment drivers that finish in positions 1-10 will be awarded championship points (10 points for first place, 1 for tenth place).. A bonus playoff point is also awarded to the stage winner which can be used later in the season. After the last lap on the final stage, traditional points will be given to the entire field with a playoff berth granted to the winner and 5 extra playoff points.

The change comes amid reports that NASCAR is failing in driving new attention to the sport. An article from the Wall Street Journal stated  that viewership of the sports championship finale was down 45 percent from 2004.

Despite the ruling, officials announced Saturday the Daytona 500 had sold out for the second consecutive year. The track holds 101, 500 permanent seats and is large enough to cover 11 football-fields.

40 drivers are set to compete in the Daytona 500. The race begins Sunday at 12 p.m.

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