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Should chase drivers have their own point system? Drivers disagree.

The 12: Who will win this year's NASCAR championship? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR) 


By Mike Mulhern



   Some interest numbers have been written down on beer napkins over the many seasons at watering holes around the NASCAR tour. But none perhaps quite as strange as the ones scribbled down back in 1975 when the late Bob Latford, the legendary stock car racing PR man, came up with the NASCAR scoring system now used for so many years to determine the sport's championship.
   The 'chase' playoff twist is new, yes; but the race-by-race point system itself – 190-170-165......etcetera – is essentially unchanged for 35 years now.
   Maybe it's time to rethink it.
   The question that triggered this seems simple enough: Should the 12 NASCAR championship chase drivers have their own separate scoring system for the 10-race playoffs?
   After all, those 12 are essentially racing each other for the title. So just how much of a role should the other 31 drivers actually be allowed to play in the chase?
   That's again a current debate. And it comes up just as NASCAR executives are pondering whether or not to tweak the playoffs for 2011.
   The bottom line in all this is simple: First and foremost, NASCAR should be encouraging drivers to lead laps and win races.
   The current point system doesn't really do either. In fact, it tends to encourage stroking, and driving carefully enough not to make mistakes.
   And remember fans come to the track or turn on the TV not to watch Race X of a championship series but to watch that specific race itself.
   The current point system was specifically designed simply to encourage drivers to run the full tour, rather than just cherry-pick big events....because back then there were only two championship-caliber team owners running the full circuit: Junior Johnson and Richard Petty. In fact in 1974 those two and the Wood brothers (then running a limited schedule of races) won all but two of the tour's 30 races.
   So series sponsor R. J. Reynolds had Latford develop the current points system, which rewards teams more for running every race than for just wins and leading laps.

   Has the current point system outlived its usefulness?
   If so, what might be a better way to do it?
   In one sense, a better point system would probably be on a logarithmic scale (rather than simply linear), with winning worth decidedly more than second, and second decidedly more than third....
   That would certainly be a plus in the championship playoffs (rather than a simple 12-man 12-11-10-etc point system, for example).
   And there is a feeling perhaps that, rather than award points for all 43 men in the field every week, have a cutoff mark – say, the top 20 finishers get points, but 21st and down get the same basic 'last place' points. In other words, if you crash, go home and come back next week, instead spending an hour or so on repairs to pick up five or six points.
   That 'repair' points scenario did work dramatically back in 1973, when title contender Benny Parsons crashed early in the finale at Rockingham but got enough repairs done to be able to limp around the track and earn enough points to win the championship.
   But that was 1973....

   Carl Edwards (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Should drivers in the NASCAR championship chase have their own separate point-scoring system, instead of the current scoring system?
   Some playoff drivers say yes, some say no.
   Would it really make any difference in who wins the championship?

   First, let's consider what the current Sprint Cup standings, going into Sunday's Loudon Sylvania 300, would look like under F1 scoring.
   For the 26 races in the 2010 regular season, this is how the top-12 would look, under the current Formula 1 scoring system (where only the top-10 finishing drivers earn points: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1).

    Kevin Harvick (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   1. Kevin Harvick 223 points (scoring points in 17 of the 26 races)

   2. Jimmie Johnson 210 points (14 top-10s)

   3. Denny Hamlin 206 points (11)

   4. Kurt Busch 177 points (15)

   5. Kyle Busch 173 points (14)

   6. Jeff Gordon 159 points (13)

   7. Tony Stewart 142 points (14)

   8. Carl Edwards 125 points (14)

   9. Greg Biffle 197 points (14)

   10. Jeff Burton 102 points (13)

   11. Clint Bowyer 98 points (14)

   12. Matt Kenseth 82 points (10)

   But here's a kicker:

   Jamie McMurray 141 points (9 top-10s)

   And here's another kicker:

   Juan Pablo Montoya 109 points (13)

   Now only giving points to the top 10 finishers each week might be too extreme; maybe give points to only the top 20 or so.

    Kyle Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Tony Stewart thinks the chase might be different if the 12 men in the playoffs were scored separately from the rest of the field. However Kevin Harvick disagrees: "Creating its own point system for the chase would be a total mistake because that's not what our sport is about.
   "Our sport is about guys trying to make the race, and people having to put their stuff on the trailer and go home.
   "It's always been about who could not break engines and who could not break parts.
   "So I think you'd open up a can of worms. It wouldn't be fun...because it's still not about (just) 12 guys.
   "The part of this sport that I like the most is that it requires you to race all 43 guys.
   "And the part that sticks out to me the most is if you want to create a points championship that has one or two point increments, and you can have a bad week...having a bad week is part of this sport.
   "Durability has always been a part of this sport, and being creative and how far you can push things, and having wrecks.
   "If you want to have your own point system, let's just have 12 cars on the track and call it IROC, because it won't work.
   "You've got to race against all 43 guys."
   Teammate Jeff Burton agrees with Harvick: "I believe our series is built on racing the entire field. I believe if you finish 35th, you should get 35th points. If you finish 35th, you should not get 12th place points. You should get the points you earn that day based on the entire field.
   "There are a lot of reasons for that -- If you win the race, and you are a point guy, let's say the three people finish second-third-fourth aren't in the chase; well, the next guy that's in the Chase, he didn't finish second. He finished fifth.
"When you compare him to you, that's where he finished. He didn't finish second; he wasn't second best to you, he was fifth best to you. So he should be awarded fifth-place points."
   However Burton does concede that having a separate point system for title challengers "would make the chase more exciting going into Homestead...because the fewer times you're penalized for having bad races, the better the championship hunt would be at the end of the season.
   "But it is not the most fair way to crown a champion."
   Then again, maybe a 10-race chase format isn't the most fair way to determine the sport's champion either.

    The chase opener: Nice weather, nice crowd (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   The championship chase media blitz through New York City this week, at first blush, looks fairly weak:
   On Wednesday Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle were on FOX' Business Channel at 7 pm; Kevin Harvick was on ESPN that morning; and Jeff Burton and Biffle were on Versus' Daily Line at 11 pm.
   On Thursday Carl Edwards, Biffle and Clint Bowyer were on FOX and Friends' at 7:30 am; Harvick, Burton and Bowyer were on Fox' Business Channel at 7 pm; Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch were on ESPN throughout the day; Harvick was on The Weather Channel in the morning; and Denny Hamlin was on the CW Morning Show.
   However there is more to it: Jeff Gordon did an interview with George Vecsey of the New York Times; Kurt Busch went to Sports Illustrated; Kevin Harvick went to the Wall Street Journal; and the playoff team did a three-hour breakout with NYC media at the posh mid-town London Hotel.

A whole 'nother season


This is how I believe the next step in NASCAR's racing season should end up. Two separate leagues (much like stick-and-ball sports) finishing the year racing the best of each for the championship. It's running A-& B- mains to a feature race on a grand scale.

It allows more cars/teams to race, more tracks tracks to race on, and more racing each week. The chase will actually be for a championship, and step the whole finale up to a new level.


So what happens if you leave the current point system in place but only count the best 20 of the first 26 races?

That compensates for a few mechanical screwups and unless you are very unlucky the times you got tangled in someone else's wreck.

If that works the Chase could be settled by the best 9 races as well.


The 1975 point system is

The 1975 point system is outdated. It rewards mediocrity and not excellence. It was derived in an era where there were many mechanical failures, and the current system got the cars back on the track to make it look like a race when it really wasn't. I want to see drivers driving their asses off, not "riding" in 5th content for "a good points day". Nobody should get points outside of the Top 20. This would keep the junk off of the track after they wreck, and park the start-and-parkers. A premium, more than what currently is, should be placed on winning. It doesn't matter what system you use for the chasers, so long as winning is rewarded heavily there also. Riding should always receive less points.

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