The Frontstretch: Bad Math: The Points System Is Still Fundamentally Flawed by Danny Peters -- Tuesday November 8, 2011

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Bad Math: The Points System Is Still Fundamentally Flawed

Danny Peters · Tuesday November 8, 2011


So let me get this straight. One Cup driver (Tony Stewart) has won half the races in the Chase – four of the eight run so far – and he’s still not in the points lead? Yes, I hear you; he had one poor finish (an out-to-lunch 25th-place effort at Dover) plus another ho-hum 15th-place run at Kansas. However, Smoke’s other two finishes were more than respectable: an eighth-place run at Charlotte and a seventh-place effort on the high banks of “two-car tango” Talladega. Put another way, Tony has an average finish of 7.4 in the Chase thus far; that’s not exactly chopped liver. And yet those numbers — those four victories, or 50% of the Chase races run if you’re mathematically inclined — are still not good enough for first place with two races to go. How does that work, exactly?

Let’s get this straight…I win all the races and I’m still not in first?

But wait, you say, Carl Edwards has been the model of consistency, the epitome of evenness, in the past eight races and indeed across the 34 completed races so far in 2012. His stats certainly bear out that fact. Let’s review: Edwards has a low water mark of 11th at Talladega to go along with his second place at Texas, two third-place runs at Dover and Charlotte, fourth in the Chase opener at Chicagoland, fifth in his “home” race at Kansas, eighth at Loudon and ninth at Martinsville (despite being a lap down on a couple of occasions). This streak is good enough for an average finish of 5.6 and a three-point lead over the charging two-time champion who is hungry (read: insatiable) for his third Cup crown, the first since the reign of Jimmie began something like four score and twenty years ago.

Plus — and this note really is just for the record — under the “traditional” points format, non-Chase Edwards has a healthy, if not insurmountable, 46-point lead over a gentleman called Jimmie Johnson (remember him?) with Stewart a distant fourth, some ninety points back. Of course, this comparison doesn’t amount to a hill of beans but it’s worth pointing out that Carl has got it done all season long – something the No. 14 team cannot claim to have done with all four of their victories coming in the Chase.

Stewart was unequivocal in his post-race opinion with regard to the vexing points issue. “I’m going to be real disappointed if people are trying to make a story out of a guy that’s got four wins isn’t leading the points,” said Stewart. “It’s about 10 weeks, and you’ve got to be good for 10 weeks. You can’t just sit there and throw it all away to try to win a race and get there.”

It’s a solid point that Stewart is making; you can’t afford a bad run in the playoffs, especially when your principal protagonist is as relentlessly consistent as Cousin Carl has proved to be. But respectfully, I’d disagree with Stewart.

The fact that he can win four of eight races and still trail in the championship speaks volumes. I’m not talking about a huge fillip in points here but at least something. You get points for wins when the Chase field is reset so why, suddenly, are they not worth so much when the big dog and pony show begins? Had Stewart received an additional three bonus points for each victory, he’d have a nine-point cushion headed into Phoenix this coming weekend. That, to me, sounds about right. Yes, Edwards is to be rewarded for his consistency. But how does it make sense you get bonus points for wins headed into the Chase, and are seeded accordingly, but not bonus points for wins in the Chase itself, when you actually run for a title? I’m sorry; that’s asinine.

Overall, the changes to the points system this season have made things simpler, no question. However, there is a clear shift toward rewarding consistency over victory once the Chase begins and that doesn’t sync with what you have to do to get in the Chase (just ask Brad Keselowski). On the one hand, it’s hard to take issue with rewarding consistency, especially given the voraciousness of the competition at the Sprint Cup level, but if you’re going to reset the points and have a playoff/Chase system then what you get for winning prior to the Chase should stand firm in the last ten. As it is, if Smoke continues his phenomenal momentum it won’t be an issue; but if he misses out by a couple points come the checkered flag at Miami-Homestead, I for one will feel he got a little cheated.

Two final points from me before I finish up. Last week, I wrote about drivers already looking forward to 2012 and one of those I picked was the ever amiable David Reutimann. As it turned out, he was rather unceremoniously dumped by Michael Waltrip Racing the following day. As much as I love and respect the ageless Mark Martin, this move does seem harsh on the only man that has ever won for MWR (two races, to be precise). Yes, Reutimann had a tough season, but teammate Martin Truex, Jr. has hardly set the world on fire in 2011, has he? I wish Reutimann luck as he negotiates the labyrinthine path to a new ride in 2012.

And finally, how funny was it when Montoya’s wheel – following a racing incident with Geoff Bodine – flew off his car and underneath the ailing No. 71 of Andy Lally. It looked to the entire world that Lally’s Ford Fusion had simply swallowed the tire in its entirety. Good stuff, and it goes to show you there is always something to watch in NASCAR… even if the race is processional.

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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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Michael in SoCal
11/08/2011 10:37 AM

Looking at the points on, Stewart totaled 48 points for his win on Sunday – 43 for 1st place, one point for leading a lap, one point for leading the most laps, and 3 points for his win.

11/08/2011 11:07 AM

For NASCAR’s own purpose, The Chase is a failure—it still rewards consistency, and so does the new points arrangement.

For the fans it’s a failure for many other reasons.

I’ve always said, and will continue to say, that there’s nothing wrong with winning a championship on consistency. It sometimes works out that way, in motorsport, and that’s just the way it is.

One of NASCAR’s most beloved figures, Benny Parsons, won a single race on route to a championship—one of the more exciting and memorable title chases, too.

Terry Labonte won both of his championships with only two wins and deadly consistency. Where was the whining there? Are two wins that much better than one?

I like Stewart, it’d be great to see him win, but I WANT Edwards to win, with only one one win all season, way back at Las Vegas, driving for Roush… sounds familiar doesn’t it? Just to look at NASCAR and go “ok, now what genius?”

11/08/2011 12:30 PM

I so want Carl to win. His consistency for the whole season has been tremendous. Yes ,Tony got the win BUT ,in my thinking he has not fought

all season .How many times has he cried about his crappy team,louder car.And as the chase started ,how terrible his whole outfit was! Carl has Earned the right to where he is and hope he wins the whole ball of wax.,, Go Carl!


Doug in Washington (State)
11/08/2011 01:21 PM

Under “Traditional”, aka Latford points, Stewart would be nowhere close. Edwards would have a 151 point lead over 2nd place Johnson, and Stewart would be 343 points back in 7th. Using last year’s Chase format, though, Stewart would lead Edwards by 9 points. The “new” points system fixed nothing.

christopher liebe
11/08/2011 03:18 PM

The points system is not fundamentally flawed. Your expectation of it is.

Don Mei
11/08/2011 04:18 PM

The points system is a joke. Stewart gets 48, second place gets 42, so second is worth 88% of first? Fifth is 81% of first? Give me a break. No wonder the races have become parades. First should be worth TWICE what second place is. After that, who cares?

11/08/2011 04:49 PM

I don’t care what point system they use (as long as it isn’t a phoney not-a-playoff), I just want to see good races all year long. To me, who wins the championship is an after thought to a season of exciting races. If each race is basically a follow the leader aero challenged, fuel mileage event, I don’t give a rip who takes the title. Consistancy, wins, whatever it takes.

Doug in Washington (State)
11/08/2011 05:24 PM

Hmm, yeah, lets make 43rd one point, each position twice the one below… 1st is 4398046511104 points.

Last month I proposed a system where the top-15 got points (95 for 1st, 71 for second, etc down to 1 point for 15th, plus 5 for leading a lap and an extra 5 for leading the most), so the winner got either 100 or 105 points. I’ve kept the calculations (no chase involved) and Kyle Busch STILL would be in the lead (even after missing a race) over Edwards. Edwards has had a bunch of top 5s. More than anyone else. More top 10s too. Tony and Kevin (tied in wins with Kyle) would be 6th and 7th, due to their hot/cold streaks.

So let’s just make winning count. Whoever wins the most, wins the cup. Kyle, Tony, and Kevin are tied at 4 wins each. So we go to 2nd place finishes… Kyle has 3, Tony has 2, Kevin has 1.

11/08/2011 06:29 PM

Winning a race is it’s own reward. I think the new points system isn’t much different than the old one and the old one was fine as far as I’m concerned as is the new one.

I have no trouble with the Chase. To me it adds a bit more interest and this is from someone who has been a fan since the 70’s.

To me, NASCAR’s problems are running cars that don’t look like production cars and running on tracks that produce follow-the-leader-aero-parade boredom.

11/08/2011 07:37 PM

I want Dale Jr. to pull the “Golden Horseshoe” out of his a**, and win the chase with only winning 1 race in the last 5 years.

phil h
11/09/2011 12:31 AM

for Gods sake…..will you racing journalists ever quit bitching,whining,and moaning about POINTS!!!
No matter what system is used you will NEVER be satisfied !!

Andy D
11/09/2011 07:53 AM

I think Carl deserves to be in the lead because of his consistent finishes all year. I think that this year’s points system is better than last year’s. I think that someone will always complain about the points system because their driver isn’t leading. I think that the media gets lazy and gripes about points at the end of any season where junior isn’t a story.

11/09/2011 10:28 AM

phil: yes they will—go back to the original system. :p

11/09/2011 12:02 PM

Didn’t hear people complaining when other than Dale Earnhardt had more wins and didn’t win the championship. If the championship was by wins in a season Dale would have 2, that’s right 2 championship. DW would have 6, Jeff 6, David Pearson 5, Petty 5 , JJ 3 Rusty Wallace 3, etc. To cry about the points now because your Hendrick Driver is still behind is laughable. I’d rather have a driver who averages a 8.6 finish over a driver that averages a 10.6 over the course of the season.

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