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Has new points system forced Hamlin, Burton and McMurray into desperation mode?

By admin | April 12, 2011

By Richard Allen

During the off season NASCAR introduced a new points system intended to simplify the process and place more emphasis on winning races. Whether or not either of those things has actually happened remains questionable. But one thing that has become apparent is that coming from behind after falling back in the standings will be difficult.

After seven races, there are already some drivers and teams approaching the position of having to win races to get into championship contention. At the completion of the season’s 26th race in Richmond the top-10 will be locked into the Chase for the Championship. The final two spots in the playoff will be awarded to the two drivers outside the top-10 who have the most wins.

Currently, Denny Hamlin(20th), Martin Truex(21st), Brad Keselowski(22nd), Jamie McMurray(24th), Jeff Burton(25th), David Reutimann(27th) and Joey Logano(28th) are among the drivers from high profile teams who would have at least been considered as potential Chase contenders before the season began.

Those drivers represent power teams such as Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Penske Racing and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. Each driver and team listed is heavily sponsored and has top flight equipment at their disposal. That only adds to the pressure each must feel at the realization their championship hopes are in serious jeopardy only seven races into the season. Desperation could well take over as winning races has almost become a must for each of these named.

As mentioned before, NASCAR changed its way of scoring points over the off season. In so doing, a system was created which severely punishes poor finishes. Previously, the number of points separating each position was tapered the further down the running order a driver fell to cushion the blow of misfortune. That is no longer the case.

Seemingly, it is much too early to count anyone out. However, this new system brings about an unknown. Based on points alone, it would be difficult for any of these drivers to come back. Not only do they face serious points deficits but they will have to jump over ten or more other drivers to get back into a guaranteed spot.

From his 20th place, Hamlin is 39 points behind tenth spot. In 28th, Logano is 69 points in back of tenth. Last year those numbers would seem insignificant. Now that is hardly the case. Hamlin is nearly a full race worth of points out of contention. Logano is well over a full race worth of points in arrears. And those statistics do not take into account that drivers in front of these will be scoring.

Added to the plights of each driver mentioned is the fact that this week brings the Talladega Super Speedway up on the NASCAR schedule. Races on that track offer the very real possibility of being caught up in other drivers’ messes. That is something none of these can afford.

All that said, if any of those mentioned are to make the Chase they will almost certainly have to do so by winning races. At the same time, though, it has to be considered that if the system relied on points alone each of these guys would be finished. But, under the new system, a driver could seemingly be out of contention until the 24th race but could win two races in a row and become an instant threat for the title. To some that’s the beauty of the system and to others it is a gimmick to keep everyone interested.

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One Response to “Has new points system forced Hamlin, Burton and McMurray into desperation mode?”

  1. Bill B Says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 7:01 am

    NASCAR’s new system could have worked if they’d have scaled it back so that everyone that finished below 30th? (arbitrary - draw the line wherever you want) got 1 point and the winner got 30 base points (plus applicable bonus points). This would have had a couple of benefits. First it would have lessened the blow of having a bad day. Second it would have gotten damaged cars off the track instead of having them run to gain a few extra points. Third it would have promoted racing for the win instead of points because taking a risk late in the race and “crapping out” wouldn’t hurt you as bad in the points.