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« Darlington Notes: Danica gets an A+, Junior takes a step backward and Kurt steps forward | Main | Like the All Star Race, most prestigious events should be about winning rather than points »

Blame points system and the CoT for lack of excitement in 2012

By admin | May 13, 2012

By Richard Allen


I feel as though I type the same column just about every week, but here goes again.

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has become noteworthy for its lack of on-track excitement. Seemingly, the biggest ‘water cooler moment’, or event most worthy of discussion the next day, has been Juan Pablo Montoya hitting a jet dryer during the Daytona 500. Otherwise, there just hasn’t been much excitement.

Before I go any further I will point out to those who when they hear the word excitement automatically interpret that as wrecks, that is not what I am talking about. Excitement translates to hard racing with cars and drivers pushing each other and leaning on each other as they swap positions time and again. Occasionally that type of racing does result in a spin or a crash, but those are not necessary for the action to be considered exciting.

The racing this season has not necessarily been bad, it just hasn’t been exciting. It’s rather like going to a football game and having a running play called on every snap and none of those plays resulting in a gain of more than ten yards. The final score of that game might have been a close 14-10 result but the game overall wasn’t very exciting. There was no reason to go to work the next day and give more than a couple of sentences summary of what was seen.

This past Saturday night in Darlington clearly illustrated this point. The track known as ‘Too Tough To Tame’ certainly looked timid. The racing was pretty good and the finish had its intrigue, but had it not been for a pushing match on pit road after the race, there would have been little to discuss the nest day.

If Darlington can’t create excitement, something has to be wrong.

So what has suddenly caused this change in the racing? Why the lack of intensity and the resulting decrease in the numbers of caution flags for something other than debris?

My opinion is that the new points system introduced during the 2010-2011 off season and the old Car of Tomorrow are the culprits. The combination of those two factors has served to create a scenario in which drivers do not want to push any issue and cars run virtually the same speed making them unable to pass each other.

In 2004 when the Chase for the Championship was first introduced, teams and drivers prepared and raced in much the same ways they had always done so because they were still learning how the new system would work. However, after a year of feeling the 26 + 10 system out, they realized they had to change their style.

Obviously, the Hendrick Motorsports #48 team of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus figured out best that just getting into the Chase was all that was needed out of the first 26 races and then hitting one’s stride over the last ten races was the key. They ran off a series of five consecutive titles as a result.

That same type scenario played out last year. Teams raced through the season under the new one point reduction per position system as they always had while feeling out the process. But at the end of 2011, the value of individual points became readily apparent when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ended up in a flat footed tie after the last race in Homestead. Since points and making the Chase now define success more so than race wins, teams and drivers now understand that points are too important to lose, and thus, they have adjusted their styles.

Unfortunately for fans, the result has been a group of drivers who are so cautious due to fear of making a move that might cost a few points that they are unwilling to race for the next spot. The gain of one point is not worth the risk of losing several should a spin out or crash occur while racing hard for position.

Holding your own has now become desirable for positions other than the lead. Needless to say, that’s bad for racing.

And more, as has been written here many times, the CoT has everybody running basically the same speed because they are essentially driving the same car. That, in turn, takes away from the ability to exchange positions. Again, that’s bad for racing.

As has been explained by some, the reduction in cautions is not because of better driving. It is the result of more cautious driving. The combination of a point system that encourages holding a spot and a car that won’t allow drivers to pass even if they wanted to is making for some lackluster ‘action’ on the track.

Like the All Star Race, most prestigious races should be about winning rather than points->

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15 Responses to “Blame points system and the CoT for lack of excitement in 2012”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 4:30 am

    Add to the fact that the cars are so expensive to build and equip and sponsorship is so hard to find that the owners can’t afford to tear up their equipment very often.

  2. Ken Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 6:49 am

    I think you are exactly right along with the fear that aggresive driving can cause the driver to lose their ride and/or their sponsor. The Busch brothers both showed what can or almost can happen.

  3. Tony Geinzer Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I really feel the COT was a necessary evil, but ruining the points system and the sponsor bridge beyond the Top 35 is not welcome and I know the 3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust Defensive is not working in 2012 and I really think NASCAR has too much of a bad thing with the lack of sponsors and lack of points fund, in no small part because of the economy.

  4. Tyler West Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I believe you hit it right on the head. It’s a combination of things that are collectively killing the sport or dulling it down.

  5. midasmicah Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Agreed, Rich. When nas$car turns the lady in black into little bo peep, something is very wrong. The contrived cautions only added to the mockery. As I’ve stated before, I don’t watch races to see wrecks, just hard, side-by-side racing. Sometimes wrecks “used to be” a by product of this. When I woke up this morning I had to think for a minute as to who won the race. That’s bad.

  6. Russ Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 9:48 am

    And the last time anybody saw a contested pass was when?

    Now it seems that the leader doesnt fight for a position, rather he lets the faster car by and hopes to make adjustments on the next pit stop.

    The new norm?

  7. Dolores Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I agree with you Rich. The cot was a good idea in theory, you want to make the drivers more safe but I think it went to far. When Nascar will not even let you tinker with the car and everyone has the same equipment there is no competitive edge. All the drivers seem to be point racing. I want to see some hard driving, passing and some passion from these drivers. Brian France will never admit the chase was a bad idea his ego won’t allow it, even if the sport keeps declining. I have been a fan for about 20 years now, watch the races religiously every week, have gone to a few races and I must say I have never seen a more boring sport as it has been the last couple of years with each year getting worse. Darlington was like watching paint dry. I really don’t see myself watching much more of this garbage and that is really sad. They have taken a great sport and turned it into an unwatchable mess. I would also say that FOX & the Waltrip brothers have something to do with its demise also.

  8. Michael in SoCal Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I remember races with the old peanut-twisted cars, and a lot of them weren’t any better on the larger tracks. Too many large (bigger than a mile) tracks, combined with the lack of cautions, causes strung out racing. I’ve not heard of many instances where strung-out is a good thing.

    I’m a fan of ‘competition cautions’ if there is a longer than 75 lap green flag run (adjust the 75 to something akin to one and a half fuel runs based on the track) to inject some comeptition into the races.

  9. Steve Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 10:52 am

    The races used to stand on their own because the product on the track was entertaining. Now you need scuffles and wrecks to make these races exciting, and that’s sad……unless of course that’s the only reason you watch.

    Most race fans want to see good racing. Its why they became fans in the first place. Unfortunately, that has been non existent for a few years now. Along with horrible race broadcasts, its no wonder the sport is in a major decline. And since Brian France will never admit he made a mistake, this is what we are left with.

    Is it going to take the entire sport to go the way of Indy Car’s decline in order for something to be done? At that point it may be too late.

  10. Nick Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I’m really hoping the car next year addresses these issues. Also, I think there’s another reason for lack of incidents. There hasn’t been a legit rookie since Joey Logano. With fewer and fewer inexperienced drivers on track, there are fewer “darts without feathers” on track as Stewart would say.

  11. SB Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    You got it right. The night race at Bristol started waning in excitement right after the ‘chase’ happened. Safer cars are a great idea…but not IROC cars. Cars are now built by computers and engineers, not ‘car guys’. All the innovation and creativity that made a team gain an advantage (for a while) no longer exist. Nascar has sapped all the individuality out of the sport, a big part of what made it so appealing in the first place.

    It also doesn’t help when the TV ‘coverage’ doesn’t show a race so much as small vignettes of one or two cars that are usually running in the front of the field. That’s not how you watch a race when you’re at the track. You keep track of various drivers, watching them work on their cars to get them better, work their way through the field. For all I know there might be great racing on the track, but I’m not allowed to see it because TV has scripted what THEY think I should see. It doesn’t make me want to watch or attend more races when I’m told that I’m too stupid to know a good race when they tell me I’ve seen one. I somehow doubt that insulting the people that ultimately pay your bills is the best move to make.

  12. sylvia richardson Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 4:25 pm


  13. jerseygirl24 Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Agree, Rich. The chase and its points racing and the ugly race car have resulted in a 26 race seeding exercise and if we’re lucky there might be some excitement in the 10 races for the trophy, but maybe not.

    The car may be safer but without passing and real racing, it’s just not worth paying a lot of attention to. Like you, I’m not into wrecks, I find it interesting that the media and NASCAR both use the video footage of the ugliest wrecks they can find to promote the sport, but then chastise the fans who find the high speed single file parades boring. Hypocrisy.

    When Fox began their coverage in 2001, they showed the fans at home the racing and people tuned in and then decided they should maybe go see a race live. Now, we see tight shots with no perspective - why would anyone buy a ticket based on it?

  14. Bob Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Points…points..points…points…points….you are 100% right.

  15. Chris Fiegler Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Do you think that everybody should qualify on speed & time the slowest car including the defending champion goes home?