Friday, January 28, 2011

New points system a nice compromise

After an offseason of rumors, NASCAR finally announced the new points system, and it’s actually the lesser of many evils.

The basic points structure has been totally wiped away in favor of a straight-forward system that gives 43 points, plus three bonus points, to the winner on down to just one point for the driver who comes in dead last.

However, of the changes that had been discussed, this system isn’t too bad. NASCAR didn’t expand the Chase to 15 drivers, put in an elimination-style format and implement whatever other ideas were thrown around in the last three months. Instead, the Chase will still have 12 drivers, except the final two spots will go to the drivers with the most wins who are between 10th and 20th in the points standings after the fall race at Richmond.

Sure, some teams in other sports have come into the playoffs through the wild card and won the championship, but it is much harder to do that in NASCAR. The two wild cards in NASCAR are rewarded by making the playoffs, and that’s where the benefits should end. Yes, Jaime McMurray ran well during the Chase last season, but he still wouldn’t have been a serious threat for the championship and whoever is in those spots this season probably won’t be either.

For years and years, NASCAR was similar to the old baseball system where the best team in each league played for the title at the end of the year — no playoffs. NASCAR’s Winston Cup points format was similar. The driver with the most points throughout the season won the championship.

Then NASCAR jumped into a playoff system in 2004 that radically changed the sport. All of a sudden 10 drivers had a shot at the championship with just 10 races left in the season instead the two or three, sometimes more, drivers who had any kind of realistic shot at that point in the season under the old format.

At least with this system NASCAR will still look similar to its recent past. Nobody is going to be willing to revert back to the original points format, but this latest version is a pretty good combination of several ideas. Winning races can now get a driver into the playoffs, even if they don’t run up front consistently each race. But, consistency still counts, which is important.

This time NASCAR could have completely cut ties with its past by restructuring how points were awarded after each race and created a one-race free-for-all where several drivers would be guaranteed a chance for the championship going into the final race. Thankfully, it didn’t and the final 10 races will still be similar to past years, the only change in that regard is how many points are talked about, because the percentages are similar. Now, 46 points will basically mean the same thing 190 points meant in the past.

While many people will continue to hate the Chase, just be glad NASCAR chose a bit of a middle ground instead of throwing a debris caution to the wind and completely changing the sport again.


  1. I think the changes to the points and the chase were reasonable enough - esp as you point out what wacky, unappealing stuff they could have done. I am bummed they didnt award a point for pole winner though. I do find it amusing that the max total points per race is 48...hmmmm I know that number from somewhere.

  2. OK - but once again the real problems (races are too long, season is too long, attendance at tracks decreasing, etc.) not even addressed - go ahead NASCAR just keep sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the problems and maybe they will go away

  3. klvalus - haha, yeah, what a coincidence. That team keeps putting its hands in the concrete of NASCAR's future.

    Anonymous - If those are the problems, then why isn't IndyCar so much more popular? It has short races, a short season and lower attendance numbers than NASCAR. The expectations just aren't as high.

  4. Sorry, Same boring Nascar. Isn't it time they took a chance? Change something? Nothing has changed, it's the same girl with a new dress and i'm being nice about this.

  5. you gotta love anonymous poster, who love to complain, yet never have anything constructive to offer.

    i have to agree with klv, they could have added some "Survivor" like knock out rounds or other craziness. i am glad they didn't. let's just hope the "have at it boy's" rules are still in effect.