By admin | January 23, 2011
By Richard Allen
In case you haven’t noticed, NASCAR and its soldiers are working hard to convince everyone that the rumored changes to the championship points system are good for the sport. However, if you keep up with this form of racing at all there is no way you haven’t noticed the recent publicity blitz.
During last week’s test session at the Daytona International Speedway, drivers, officials and broadcasters took turns behind the microphone explaining that the proposed system of awarding 43 points to a race winner and giving one point less for each descending position is an improvement over the current system because of its simplicity. As the explanations went, smaller numbers are easier for the common folk to understand and thus will make for a better system.
Apparently the offices in Daytona Beach have been inundated with phone calls, e-mails and letters of exasperated fans who were unable to grasp the old format. These mathematically challenged racing viewers were no doubt clamoring for ease of addition and subtraction so that they could better understand how the system works.
Everyone from Darrell Waltrip to Mike Helton to Jimmie Johnson told all who would listen in Daytona and beyond that the new points system about to be employed by NASCAR would be better because of those smaller numbers.
The trouble with all the reassurance that we will all be able to handle the math is that no one really explained exactly what the system would consist of.
When the information was first leaked there was no mention of any bonuses for leading or winning. The new system was simply going to be a straightforward 43 to 1 format. However, when a number of folks sat down and actually applied that much easier math it became apparent that such a system would actually discourage racing for wins and encourage settling for ‘good points days’.
Suddenly, word is beginning to trickle out that when NASCAR Chairman Brian France addresses the media this coming Wednesday he will state that the new system may include bonus points for race winners as well as Chase for the Championship rewards for those who have won races during the ‘regular season’.
President Mike Helton admitted last week in Daytona that there is still some tweaking being done. It’s funny how all of those drivers and broadcasters were so quick to praise a new system that hasn’t even been set yet.
Had it not been written and spoken in a number places that there needed to be more emphasis on winning races than just earning one point more than second place I believe the 43 to 1 system would have been enacted as originally stated. The reason I say that is once the numbers were run using the 43 to 1 system it was realized that Jimmie Johnson would have beaten Kevin Harvick by only a single point in 2010. NASCAR officials could envision a ratings boost for the season finale with such a close title fight.
With all that said, I would point out that my issue is not with changing the current points system. I have written a number of pieces advocating exactly that.
My issue with all that has been going on over the past few years in NASCAR is the apparent lack of understanding the sanctioning body has for what is actually needed. They seem to be willing to turn to any sort of quick fix in order to gain short-term ratings boosts rather than long-term solutions to serious issues confronting the sport.
For whatever reason, the leaders of NASCAR seem convinced that fans want close points battles and seem willing to sacrifice individual events for the sake of “points racing”.
The Daytona Beach hierarchy does not seem to believe fans will continue to show up and watch individual races if their favorite driver is out of contention for a championship.
As an example to the contrary, even though he has not made the Chase for the past two seasons would Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s fans have been less excited had he won one of the final ten races in those years?
NASCAR needs to stop making so many reactionary stop-gap changes and focus on the long-term direction of this sport. Such fixes make them look desperate and groping. A boost of two-tenths of a point in the Nielson ratings here or there will be of little benefit if the sport has ceased to exist ten years from now.
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