The Frontstretch: Side By Side: Should NASCAR Award Bonus Points Throughout Each Race? by S.D. Grady and Mike Neff -- Wednesday March 6, 2013

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Side By Side: Should NASCAR Award Bonus Points Throughout Each Race?

S.D. Grady and Mike Neff · Wednesday March 6, 2013


Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we’re going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!

This Week’s Question: NASCAR is looking at all sorts of ways to make the racing early in events more competitive. To do so, should they begin awarding point “bonuses” for segments of events (first 100 laps, second 100 laps, etc.) so drivers will be encouraged to race harder?

Mike Neff, Senior Writer: Segmented Bonus Points Are a Must

We’ve heard the same ol’ song and dance for years and it has never been more prevalent since the advent of the Chase. Drivers ride around for most of the race and then drive hard at the end because that is when they pay the money and the points. There is no incentive to go hard during the middle of the event unless you’re trying to lead the most laps, and with the current point system, where you only get one point for leading the most, the danger of losing twenty or thirty points due to a crash is far more daunting than trying to get the one bonus point. As a result, fans are turning away from the sport more and more because the only parts of the race worth watching are the beginning and the end. The time has come for NASCAR to give the drivers a reason to push hard throughout the event.

The tracks on the NASCAR circuit, as well as the events themselves, come in a variety of different lengths, so it would not work to pay points at a specific numbered lap. Instead, what NASCAR must do is decide what percentage of the race will result in the awarding of in-race points. The most logical, and easiest for the fans to understand (which is a priority apparently for the folks in Daytona) is to pay points at the quarter marks of the race. However many laps are to be contested, divide that number by four and pay the points after each segment of the race that contains that many laps.

Would awarding points in designated segments throughout each race create close racing…

In simple terms, the Daytona 500 is 200 laps long. Divide the total number of laps by four and you get 50-lap segments. When the first 50 laps of the race is completed, points are awarded. Then, you do it again at the halfway point and finally at the three-quarter mark before the ultimate points are awarded for the finishing order. You will have the same formula at every track; there will just be different numbers of laps in the segments. The drivers will know before the race starts what the lap numbers are so that they can focus on being in the best position at those points in the race.

You wouldn’t want NASCAR to award full race points at each of these segments, but rewarding the top 5 or even the top 10 would make things much more interesting. If they paid 10 points for leading at each quarter point of the race, a driver could actually score more points than the winner by leading at the three-quarter mark but coming home second in the race. Some fans might object to that, though, and NASCAR could obviously tweak the points so that the winner is guaranteed the most points on a race weekend. But the point is that it will give drivers an incentive to go hard for the whole race and someone can actually make up some ground in the standings, something that is extremely hard to do these days.

Paying points for more than the quarters might give too much to the drivers leading or near the front of the pack for most of the race but not at the finish. However, it will encourage the drivers to go hard early and often during the race to keep themselves in contention for the bonus points throughout the event. Race strategies will develop around these point milestones. Some teams might stay out under a caution to garner the points while other teams pit. When the points are earned the teams who stayed out will then pit and the cars at the back of the pack will now be up front. It will open a myriad of possibilities which will all add excitement to the event.

Would this idea be harder to follow than the current point system? A little bit. However, the thing that most fans want to know is where does their driver sit at the end of the day? They really don’t care about the points that are earned throughout the race or where their driver runs. As a result, the drivers will know when they want to be up front and getting there will add excitement to the events. It will also open up sponsorship opportunities for race promoters because each segment could have a sponsor paying a purse to the leader. It would hearken back to the old halfway bonus. For those who don’t remember, there used to be a halfway bonus of $10,000 for the driver leading at the crossed flags. It cost Dale Jarrett the Brickyard 400 one year because he tried to stretch his fuel to the halfway point and ran out.

Racing should be about trying to lead the most laps and beating the competition. Unfortunately, it has come down to a points management game now. The only way to get the competitive excitement back into the sport, while still allowing the bean counters the chance to keep track of points is to offer them more often throughout the events. In the end, it will make for a much better show.

S.D. Grady, Senior Editor: There’s no need for more bonus points

And welcome to the New Hampshire 100, three times the charm, trophy awarded to all comers, presented by NASCAR and your local T-ball team.

No, it is not worth your while as a top-notch professional stock car team to go balls to the wall all 500 laps, proving to the world that your machine is the most durable, that you’ve hired a pilot with both endurance and wits, and that you’ve the wherewithal to garner enough sponsors to pay your bills. No, it’s quite all right. We’ve got you covered.

…or would it simply mean everyone gets a ribbon while the winner’s accomplishment is diminished?

Instead of pushing every limit on man and machine, we’ve got a brand new way of doing business for the Sprint Cup Series. We’re going to fully embrace the title sponsor’s name and turn Sunday’s marathon into a Saturday Night Special. Every 50 laps we’ll award a ribbon to the boy or girl who slips past the start/finish line first—there’s a new flag designed for the moment — it features a cartoon character. We’re just waiting for the fan poll to come through so we can name it. We’ve also decided to print a certificate for the best fuel mileage, snazziest pit crew uniforms and most dramatic performance by a crew chief.

If that’s not enough, there’s the 75-lap, 50/50 raffle to keep the fans interested. During the lap 150 scheduled break, the track mascot will scamper up and down the stands awarding the brightest fan (that’s brightest…as in t-shirt color) free tickets to come back again. On lap 225, there will be a Twitter poll with random participants earning points toward a meet n’ greet with the lap 275 leader.

Victory Lane? That has been abbreviated into a photo op with the State Troopers in the parking lot while the team tries to escape the traffic jam.

No, you cannot improve the racing of the Sprint Cup Series by chopping up the event into shorter, lucrative segments. By doing so, you will have devalued all that the teams have worked so hard to achieve in reaching the upper echelon of stock car racing in America.

There are no 500-lap features at your local Friday night track. The cars won’t last. The drivers aren’t as good. The ruts in the surface would probably crumble.

By reaching the Sprint Cup Series, you have proven that you’ve got the goods to go the distance. When you take the trophy, you’ve done what many others have only dreamed of accomplishing: beat the competition by being the brightest, fastest, strongest, most adaptive, focused, intelligent and on the occasion just plain lucky. And yes, by driving smart for the first 499 laps.

The fat lady only sings once a race. That’s what we hand out the big checks for and that’s the way it should remain. Otherwise, we should close every major racing venue and excuse ourselves to the splintered benches of Thompson, Irwindale, and Eldora.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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Steve K
03/06/2013 01:40 AM

Segment points? No. But twin 200 (or 150) mile races (Daytona aside) on a Sunday afternoon? I will go for that.

03/06/2013 07:45 AM

Yes, break the points up over the course of the race. That way maybe even some of the start-and-park guys might stick around to pick up a point or two extra.

The only rub I see is that some might stay out during a caution to receive the points. So maybe those points could roll to the end of the race should the lap where points are to be awarded occurs during a yellow flag.

03/06/2013 08:57 AM

I don’t have all the answers but I know what’s NOT working.

Today’s crowd wants to see action, and LOTS of it. Not running around single file for a “good points day”.

The young folks of today are busy, they don’t want to watch 2 hrs of riding around to see the last 25 laps of racing. It’s just as easy to catch it later on the net to see what happened.

Their needs to be a reason for folks to want to sit and watch the race live.

Carl D.
03/06/2013 10:10 AM

It sounds gimmicky but I’m not ready to dismiss the idea just yet. Personally, I think part of the problem is awarding points to so many drivers. My idea… award 10 points for a win, 5 for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth and fifth, a single point for sixth through tenth. Everybody else… thanks for playing; better luck next time. This puts a real premium on wins and keeps guys from bringing back junked cars so they ride around to salvage a few points. Stop rewarding mediocrity, and maybe there will be less mediocre racing.

Just talking
03/06/2013 10:25 AM

Agree with Steve and Carl above.

Bring back heats! But the big teams will never allow it. Could you imagine the 48 wrecking in the first heat. But that would be really exciting,

At the very least though adjust how points are given. Carl says no points below 10, I can see gluing to 15. But we have to stop riding around for a 15th place.

Andy D
03/06/2013 11:12 AM

No points for the back of the pack. More points for the front, and 25% more points for 1st than 2nd.

I would prefer one point for every single lap led. In addition to what I said above. Awarding points at the quarter will only make them race 4 times instead of 1.

I care about who wins races and pay no attention to points. If someone excels all season, they’ll be champion. I don’t care how they got there.

03/06/2013 11:58 AM

What would it take to motivate most drivers to drive the wheels off the car to get to the lead. Most of the big team drivers are already on salary and where they finish doesn’t make much difference to them in the wallet. About the only thing I can think of that might light a fire under their butts is more money and a spot in the chase. I don’t especially like gimmicks, but look folks we gotta think outside the box to put some life back into racing.

Here’s an idea. Using a random bingo draw system, a ball is put into a jar representing each lap of the race. At the conclusion of the race in the winner’s circle we draw out say three balls and the leader of those laps would win a substantial amount of the purse money. (The race purse could be reconstructed to accommodate).

In addition, after the Richmond race, a draw is made for the two wild-card spots from a jar which includes balls representing all laps run from the previous 26 races. The lap leader of the two balls drawn (which for example may be the 226th lap of the World 600 and the 53rd lap of the Southern 500) gain spots into the chase. All laps would have equal importance since no one or driver knows the exact lap to lead.

Such a rule would put a premium on leading laps. More laps leads better the chances of winning the draw, If a driver is not interested in leading laps, You can assume that driver is also not interested in more money or increasing his changes getting into the chase. I think most people would have a hard time being a fan of driver not interested enough to attempt to lead laps.

S.D. Grady and Mike Neff Your idea is a good one too. Mine is just another idea, but we both agree there’s a need to change something to stop this riding around in a line. We need something to put more value into being the leader though out the race. Enough is Enough.

03/06/2013 01:26 PM

I agree with Andy D

Chris in TX
03/06/2013 02:11 PM

One of my favorite Richie Evans stories was from a feature event at a local short track, where (part of the) prize money was $10/lap lead. In addition, a 6-pack of beer (or some denomination of beer) per lap spent in second place. He chose to not pass for the feature win until the very end of the race, because he wanted more beer.

I like all of the ideas that put some value on running well during the race, as long as the winner still, yaknow, wins.

So, I think that any of them can work in the right implementation.

I like there being a bonus point (or 3 or 5) for a Pole won.

I like the idea of awarding bonus points at stages of the race for positions.

I like (probably a little better) awarding bonus points for average running position during the race. Maybe 10pts down to 1 for the top-10 in ARP.

I don’t like the bonus point for leading a lap. I think that the winner of the race needs to garner the most points, which means that the points for winning with no other bonuses needs to likely be higher than the highest-possible-achievable-points-total for 2nd place.

As long as the bonuses are consistent, measurable, and promote the desired behavior, then they’re likely in good shape.

I also agree that points should go to zero, or a fixed amount, after a certain point. Say, positions 30-43 all get 30th place points (or 43rd place points). This way, there is minimal incentive to drive around in a wrecked car.

03/06/2013 02:23 PM

So lets remember: Wasn’t the Chase supposed to get everyone excited and bring in fans?

And now we’re all supposed to marvel at good ole 5-time.

Uh, it didn’t work. And now we want these SAME nascar money men to fix things….again.

Yeah. Call me when THAT happens.

03/06/2013 02:35 PM

Something must be done. I hear NASCAR bragging about the number of people who watched Daytona but it was likely the worst thing that could happen to them. Do you believe that aperson turning on racing for the first time and watching that parade will be back?

The sole purpose of a race these days is to make a profit for the half a dozen competative teams left (yes I said a half dozen if you are not building an engine or doing any design work I don’t care who’s name is on the entry form you are part of the team who is)

So simply put something must be done and changing the point system is likely the simplest then in order to make money racing you have to race.

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