The Frontstretch: Points? What's the Point? by Bryan Davis Keith -- Monday January 24, 2011

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Points? What's the Point?

Monday Morning Tear-Down · Bryan Davis Keith · Monday January 24, 2011


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The 2011 season hasn’t even started, and already trying to count NASCAR points is causing migraines. That’s right; fans are popping aspirin well before the top 35 in owner points secure their locked-in positions into the Daytona 500, rendering pole day and the Duel races merely shells of their former significance. They’re causing pain and suffering well before 26 races’ worth of results are all but thrown out the window to set the Chase field at Richmond. For crying out loud, it’s not even Speedweeks yet!

With the way NASCAR’s new Nationwide Series point system works, Brad Keselowski will still tower over Justin Allgaier, affecting the battle for the 2011 title in the process – even though he won’t technically ever be allowed to score any points for where he finishes.

As touched on in this column one week ago, the new “fix” that will prevent Cup drivers from winning the Nationwide Series championship (while contesting the full schedule anyway) is going to do far more than to cheapen and degrade the legitimacy of that series’ crown further; it’s also going to make the points utterly convoluted. And that confusion goes beyond the fact that Nationwide regulars with no wins and only a smattering of top-10 finishes are going to be leading in the points chase while they’re not even remotely close to sniffing the lead many weekends.

The decision by NASCAR to award points based on finishing position, while simply not awarding points to the positions that Cup drivers fill, is contradictory to the entire reason they changed the scoring in the first place… to keep the Nationwide Series regulars and their title chase from being at the mercy of the Buschwhackers. With this scoring system in place, the exact opposite happens. Even if Cup drivers still be able to run and win scores of races and carpetbag all the purse money that goes with it isn’t bad enough, the fact that they aren’t scoring points doesn’t mean that they won’t have a huge impact on the title chase.

Rewind back to March of 2010, when Justin Allgaier scored one of only two race wins for non-Cup drivers in Nationwide competition last year. Allgaier scored 190 points for his victory. Cup drivers scored positions two through six in the final running order, with Reed Sorenson coming home seventh, second among non-Cup regulars.

Had Allgaier and Sorenson been racing for the Nationwide crown this time one year ago, Allgaier would have gained 46 points on the second-place finisher. Now move on to the August race at Montreal, where Boris Said scored the only other non-Cup win of 2010. Jacques Villeneuve was the runner-up among Nationwide regulars that day, but since he finished third, Said only made up 20 points for his victory.

Why should the number of Cup drivers in a race (and where they finish) impact the Nationwide points? Wasn’t that the entire point of forbidding them from running for the title in the first place, to allow the Nationwide regulars to decide their own championship amongst themselves?

Epic fail.

Just as the Chase has convincingly demonstrated that running a race where different segments of the field are scored differently as they compete simultaneously has proven to be anything but positive for NASCAR coverage and competition, the Nationwide Series is likely going to be in a very similar boat with this new scoring system. Only difference is, the Nationwide guys are going to be putting up with it 35 times a year instead of just 10.

So the Nationwide Series is broken, what else is new? Well, in addition to the Chase, the Cup Series may well be facing a new problem also relating to the points system. Concerned both with correcting a culture of points racing that is perceived to have had a negative impact on NASCAR competition, as well as trying to make the scoring system easier to understand for fans, NASCAR is now reportedly considering a move to scoring that would award 43 points for a winner, with that number decreasing by one point a position to the 43rd-place driver, who would score just one.

If they’re trying to make something that’s simpler, well, mission accomplished. But this points system does absolutely nothing to alter the impact the current scoring system has on both the racing and team practices. It certainly doesn’t put more of an emphasis on winning; under the current system, a second place finisher scores 92% of the points that a winner does. Under the new system, the second place finisher will score 98% of the points the winner does, bonus points excluded.

To put that in further perspective, the 43-1 system will create more, not less, incentive to stroke along for a top-10 finish instead of gunning for a win. Under the current system, an eighth-place result scores 77% of the points the winner does, while under the new system they would score 84% for the same finish. This newly proposed system may make the points tighter, but one thing they’re not going to do is incentivize winning.

This isn’t rocket science. Want to incentivize winning? Award 250, 300 points for a win in the current system. Make a win mandatory to make the Chase. Make it about winning or leave the damned points alone. Want to award wins? Award them. Want to award consistency? Get rid of the Chase. Want to create a Nationwide Series champion that’s a Nationwide Series regular? Get the non-regulars out. Enough with this pussy-footing around.

Though while on the topic of points, one convoluted system that race fans won’t have to worry about in 2011 is the one used to determine the Rookie of the Year (notice it doesn’t say Raybestos Rookie of the Year, they’ve run away from that program after last year’s Kevin Conway vs. Terry Cook cage match). Why? There are none, at least in the Cup and Nationwide Series ranks.

Go figure. The one points system that’s not going to be cause for concern in 2011 is the one that most fans would like to see active. Because a lack of rookies, just like the lack of a constructive point system, is certainly not something to celebrate.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
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01/24/2011 11:56 AM

Why have a points system at all? Run the 36 races and the team that wins the most races is the champion. In case of a tie, fans select the winner from those tied for most wins. Simple!! And it addresses what everyone evidently thinks is most important: winning and popularity.

Bill B
01/24/2011 12:27 PM

First off, I would have bet $20 that incentivize wasn’t a real word but I went ahead and looked it up. Good one!

You have a point with the Nationwide series but a lot of us are just glad to see NASCAR do something to disincentivize Cup guys from monopolizing the NW series. If you asked me they should have just limited every full time Cup driver (except rookies) from running more than 15 NW races. That would have solved a lot of the issues.

As for the Cup points JR is right, if you are going to give 300 points for a win then lets just make the champion the guy with the most wins. Although I’d go for traditional tie-breakers (most, 2nds, 3rds, etc) over JR’s idea of fan voting (I assume that was sarcasm JR).
Of course if I was in charge I’d get rid of the chase and put back in the system that was there prior to BF. Perhaps making a win pay a minimum of 25 more points than 2nd.

What most irks me is NASCAR’s constant changes trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. The whole playoff concept just doesn’t work in NASCAR and the sooner they realize that the better off everyone will be.

01/24/2011 01:11 PM

If they wanted to simplify things, NASCAR could get rid of the playoff that 55% of remaining fans still hate. Simple enough to me.

01/24/2011 01:18 PM

Ya know what? I do not care about the points system anymore. I do not care who the “Champion” is anymore. I just do not. Each race is a discreet event. Somebody wins and you move on to the next race.

Thanks Goldman for the note. It is close enough to the season for me. You can go back to sleep now.

01/24/2011 04:27 PM

Must be Brian France ideas.

01/24/2011 05:12 PM


Pure Sterling
01/24/2011 05:23 PM

AncientRacer is 100% correct, in my opinion. All of the focus on points and championships since the “chase” started has taken away the emphasis of each individual event as a stand alone spectacle. Don’t spend anymore time worrying about the appropriate points system-just pick one. Then cut 6 races and make the 30 remaining races count for the title but return the emphasis to the individual race not to the season standings.

01/24/2011 06:37 PM

Ancientracer – I agree and have said it many times. These are (supposed to be) racers. Racers race to win – not ride around.

01/24/2011 06:45 PM

The fact that the season is less than a month from beginning, pre-season Daytona testing is complete, and nobody has any idea how the championship will be awarded speaks volumes. Does a championship title have any meaning when the criteria for winning it change from one season to the next seemingly at random?

01/24/2011 07:51 PM

I agree with the comment as to why even have a point system if its so complicated to understand. Just give championship to whoever wins most races, top 5’s, and top 10’s,etc. Or they could just have the 43 point system, and give last place 1 pt plus 33 pts bonus and add 3pts up for so many positions, and then 4pts more for higher spots, then 5pts for higher finishes on up to top two which would get 10-25 more than third. Oh Yeah! that was once considered a good idea, sorry about that!

01/24/2011 08:04 PM

I really don’t think Helton or France ever pay attention to fans comments anyhow. As A fan since 1969, I never really thought I would ever dislike NASCAR racing. But with more changes and the stupid chase, I’m feeling this could be the year I give up wasting time with it. FANTASYCUP was a game that really kept you interested, and now that game is gone(SprintCup Challenge). And as for a champion format(Chase), maybe they should have All-Star race at end of year with top 12 in points, etc, with an elimination format to determine the playoff champion to see if anyone can dethrone the real series champ.

Sharon J
01/26/2011 06:50 AM

Do away with the Chase.

Don Mei
01/26/2011 09:46 AM

The proposed NASCAR points system is completely absurd. It would award second place with 97.6% of the points the winner gets. Tenth would get 79% . That system sure encourages people to go for the win, doesnt it? Might as well put cruise control on the cars. Almost every other Professional racing organization rewards first place to a much greater extent.Second place in Formula 1, Indycar and Motogp all get 80% of the points the winner gets. Tenth place gets 10% in Formula 1, 40% in Indycar and 24% in Motogp. Its going to add to the boredom that NASCAR has become because no one is going to knock himself out to gain 2.3% more points. Are these people stupid or what?

01/27/2011 03:42 AM

Dump the “Chase.” Dump the “Top 35 Starters” and Qualify every car that shows up even if it is on the morning of the race.