Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Thursday, February 3, 2011

NASCAR Announces New Points System

I realize I'm a little more than a week late with this, but I wanted to give myself plenty of time to digest the particulars and make sure I understood them before offering an opinion. Unlike a lot of NASCAR fans who populate the message boards, I didn't want to fly off the handle with an emotional response without true understanding.

I dunno, I'm odd like that.

As expected, NASCAR announced that it would revamp its points system for the top three national touring series. Race winners would receive 43 points, with second place receiving 42 points, decreasing in 1-point increments all the way down to 43rd place, which would receive one point.

Last place in the Camping World Truck Series is 36th, which would net a driver eight points.

Drivers would receive three bonus points for winning a race. Leading a lap will result in a bonus point, as will leading the most laps. If a driver wins the race and leads the most laps, he'll receive 48 points (cue the conspiracy theories).

Drivers will also receive a three-point bonus for the Chase if they win a "regular season" race. After the fall race at Richmond, the top 10 in points will reset to 2,000, with drivers seeded by wins. Chase positions 11 and 12 will be taken by the drivers outside the top 10 in points, but in the top 20, with the most wins.

Call it the Jamie McMurray Rule.

If drivers between 11th and 20th are tied in wins, or there are no wins, the final two Chase spots will be determined by points position. Imagine if guys 11th through 14th in points went into the fall race at Richmond with a shot to win their way into the Chase.

Just think how awesome that would be.

While I'm still not convinced the point system needed to be simplified, the new formula is, by and large, simpler. Separating each position by one point (before taking bonus points into account) is easier to understand and favors consistency; the emphasis on winning comes in the form of bonus points.

Example: If a driver wins the race and leads the most laps, he receives 48 points. If the second-place finisher doesn't lead a lap, he received 42 points. That's a difference of six points; in a system where each position is only separated by one point, that large a swing can be significant.

Example again: If a driver wins the race, but does not lead the most laps, he receives 47 points. If the second-place driver leads the most laps, he receives 44 points -- leaving the race winner with a 3-point edge.

Again, that's a big span when the difference between, say, third and fourth is one point.

The result? Achieving the delicate balance between consistency -- racing gods help you if you blow a motor and finish 43rd -- and winning. Fans didn't care for Matt Kenseth winning the 2003 title in a rout despite winning just one race, but I'm not sure crowning a driver with eight wins and seven DNFS is the way to go, either.

I would've liked to have seen NASCAR stop awarding points to drivers who finish worse than 30th, similar to Formula 1. Not only would it reward consistency, but it would also stop teams from repairing badly-damaged race cars so a guy can ride around, finish 30th and pick up six points.

But I understand NASCAR President Mike Helton's assertion that every team that shows up to the track deserves some points.

Truth of the matter is, NASCAR will never create a point system that will please everyone -- just as it would never create a schedule or a car template or a television package that will please everyone. While I felt NASCAR had more important issues to address than the point system, this is a system that has the potential to create more exciting racing and more exciting title bouts down the stretch.

And if that happens, then does everything else really matter?

Let's just go racing, already.

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