Changing the System

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

The Chase may have different participants in 2011 if the points system changes. (Photo: Getty Images)

What was thought to be a change to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format now looks like it will be a full blown revision to the entire NASCAR points system.

Speculation is that NASCAR will announce a complete overhaul of the points system next week during the annual pre-season media tour in Charlotte.
 
First introduced in 1975 and credited to long-time NASCAR statistician Bob Latford, Major League stock car racing has awarded points based on consistency. A proposed new system, which will reportedly simplify the distribution of points in a 43-1 equation with race winners receiving 43 and last place picking up a single point, will continue that trend however with smaller numbers.
 
Apparently NASCAR believes the simpler points structure will make it easier for fans to follow along. The current system is a bit more complex in terms of numerical values and when bonus points for leading a lap or the most laps in a race are thrown into the mix a bit tricky to figure out.
 
The added value for leading is expected to stay in place but given the new denominations will most likely be much smaller.
 
But in recent years NASCAR has talked about putting a bigger emphasis on winning races. In fact, the Chase seeding process was shifted to award bonus points for regular season wins in an attempt to put much more incentive on getting to victory lane.
 
The proposed new plan doesn’t help put winning as front and center as some fans would like to see.
 
Also not known is just how the new format will impact the Chase. One concept will reportedly give drivers who finish in the first 10 spots of the point standings after the regular season ends in Richmond a berth in the playoff run. Two additional spots would then go to those with the most wins who are not already eligible for the Chase.
 
If such a plan were in place this past year, the accomplishments of Jamie McMurray – who had three victories but finished well outside the Chase cut-off line – would have been recognized.

However, that idea could have a negative ramification and give a playoff position to a driver and team who don’t run the entire schedule.
 
How would NASCAR handle a scenario in which a part-time team such as the Wood Brothers wins two races with young driver Trevor Bayne in 2011 but only makes eighteen starts? If Bayne’s pair of victories is the best of those not finishing in the first 10 of the point standings after race No. 26, should he punch his ticket to the Chase?
 
Like any new concept, bugs and details will most certainly need to be examined and worked out. But with a monumental change like the one being proposed to replace a points system that has been in place for more than 35 years, every bit of minutia has to be worked through before unleashing it to the world.
 
It will be interesting to see if NASCAR Nation will embrace yet another change to a sport that has continued to deliver them on a regular basis for the last several years. Even if the new system turns out to be far better than the one it replaced, there will be many who reject the idea simply because they are sick of all the recent changes.
 
When NASCAR CEO Brian France rolls out the new format next week in Charlotte, it will be remembered as a very pivotal moment in the sport’s history. Let’s hope it’s also remembered as a positive one.

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