Business As Usual

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The world has had a few days for the details to sink in now and the earth is still spinning on its axis. The details of NASCAR's "Chase for the Championship" point plan are known which will change that way the sport has been run dramatically.

Although it's a radical departure from the previous system, it's not the first time NASCAR has made a move in the point championship. Back in the day, before the modern era began in 1972, points were awarded based on prize money. Then along came the late Bob Latford's plan which was implemented in 1975, when the schedule was cut to 31 races, which was in place until the new championship plan was unveiled this week.

Because NASCAR wasn't as popular or considered a major sport back in the mid 1970s, there wasn't as much of an outcry among fans when the Latford system went into effect. But now with the national spotlight shining and the sport at its most popular point in history, any move of this size is under the microscope.

I've heard talk this week from fans and even some media that whoever wins the title this year should have an asterisk by his name because that driver won't truly have earned the championship. And of all the outrageous remarks I've heard since this story broke last fall, that might be the most ridiculous of all.

The driver who wins the Nextel Cup in 2004 will be as much of a champion as any in the series history. Richard Petty won three of his seven titles before the "Modern Era" began and racked up several of his legendary victories in 100 lap events at short tracks around the southeast. Many of the races had starting fields of 16 or 17 cars and the event was over in less than an hour.

Those titles came under a completely different set of circumstances than the four "The King" won in the "Modern Era" system, but are no less in stature. Petty simply did what he had to do to win the title under the rules of the game. The 2004 champion will be doing the exact same thing.

The sport has grown over time and the point system had to evolve. The fact is that the old system had its share of critics over the years anyway. Could NASCAR have tweaked things here and there to make it better like giving more points for a win? Sure, but the time was right for something new after 28 years.

I can understand some of the fans' negative reaction to this move. The 2004 season already has a new series title, some long-time sponsors gone and replaced by new names, traditional races moved and a new CEO driving the NASCAR bus. But that's all the more reason that now was the right time to introduce the plan. Like it or not, it's a new era in NASCAR. And ultimately the choice is with the fans to accept the change and continue to watch the sport or to stop buying tickets and turning off the television.

My guess is once the green flag flies at Daytona it will be business as usual.



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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2004

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