Incentive to Win a Hot Topic
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on January 13, 2014 | 10:22 A.M. EST
Kyle Busch is among those drivers who feel that there already is plenty of incentive to win races without making changes to the current points structure. (Photo: Getty Images)
Several drivers feel they're already doing everything possible to try and win races without NASCAR adding more incentives to the point system.
But NASCAR CEO Brian France has said in recent weeks that the sanctioning body is exploring possible changes to the points championship in an effort to find a better balance between consistency and winning.
"We are not satisfied that we have the exact balance we want with winning, consistency, points, running for a championship," France said last week on Motor Racing Network’s "NASCAR Live." "We think we can make some tweaks to continue to incentivize risk-taking and racing hard. We’ll be coming with things that put the incentive on winning races and competing at the highest level."
However, many drivers believe there isn’t anything NASCAR can do to make winning any more important than it is today.
"It kind of doesn't make sense," Kyle Busch said during the recent Preseason Thunder testing session at Daytona International Speedway. "You look at the points structure and say, 'Well, you need to reward winning more.' Okay, go down the list of the last five, six, seven years. Who's won the most races? Jimmie Johnson. So you're going to award a guy who wins all the races more points, and he already has the consistency?"
Busch thinks any consideration in changing point distribution should be more about opportunities to make up ground after a particularly bad outing than addressing the perception that drivers aren’t trying to win.
"You're trying to take away the bad days so if you have a bad day, if you finished in the 30s or the 40s, you can go back the next week and you can win, essentially you're knocking back those bad finishes," Busch said.
Some fans have voiced concern that the individuality of races has been lost in the overarching story of the Sprint Cup Series championship. Since the advent of the Chase in 2004, more focus on the title and simply making the post-season field has dominated the sport.
But Carl Edwards says finding the perfect formula and balance between a single race and the big-picture championship is not an easy task.
"I don't know how you make it perfect all the time," said Edwards. "I don't know that you can make every race as important as the final lap of the final race for the championship. But I can tell you this: We don't have to get motivated to go try to win that race. If anything, you have to sometimes not be too motivated so you don't ruin your championship hopes. I think it's a battle, but everyone's doing the best they can.
"I guess to put it simply, I don't think there is any incentive you can throw out there that's going to make people go put on a better race. We're all racing pretty hard."
Others concur with Edwards’ assessment that they’re doing all they can behind the wheel to cross the finish line first and take the checkered flag.
"I don't know if there's any racecar driver out here that isn't competitive enough to say they're going to do what they've got to do to win a race," said Joey Logano. "They're going to try to win the race. I think if there is someone like that out here, it's probably not the guy that's going to win any races throughout the season.
"I'm pretty sure drivers at this level are very competitive and want to win really, really bad. Pulling into Victory Lane and doing burnouts is fun. Everyone enjoys that and we'll do everything we can to make that happen."
Defending series champion Johnson is also in the "drivers doing everything possible to win" camp. But if NASCAR does make a modification that somehow improves the current system, he’s on board.
"It's just more perception, in some respects; looking at it and putting more weight on winning because it's not going to change what I do in there," said Johnson. "I'm trying to get every point I can and win every race I can. So I don't see a big impact there.
"But if it changes perception and pulls it in the right direction, awesome. If it gives us great story lines to talk about and write about, awesome. There's no down side in that."