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Drivers would rather Chase than Race

By admin | June 22, 2009

By Richard Allen

Juan Pablo Montoya’s statements prior to the Toyota/Save Mart 350 said a lot about modern day NASCAR.

The Colombian driver who has an extensive background in road course racing was considered a favorite to win when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited the Infineon Raceway this past Sunday. Montoya has been running well of late and proving he has adapted to oval tracks to match his proficiency on road courses. What better way for him to punctuate his recent upsurge than to race for a win by taking advantage of the track he is most comfortable on, right?

Well, that’s not the way Montoya saw it.

Instead of going all out for a win, the driver who has been known over his entire racing career as a hard charger decided to race for points instead. “I will Chase race, yes,” Montoya said. “Surprising, isn’t it?”

It’s not surprising, Juan. It’s disappointing.

The crazy thing is, this was a statement coming from a driver who has won one Sprint Cup race. Let me say that again for emphasis. He has won ONE Sprint Cup race. Yet, he considers scoring points more important than winning races.

And I’m not just picking on Montoya. It is often that drivers who have never won a race will get out of their car after a Top 10 run and talk about the good points day they had. What happened to winning? Since when does winning not matter?

I remember distinctly hearing an interview with Richard Petty after the last race of the season in 1979 when he had just won his 7th Winston Cup title. He was asked about the championship he had just secured and he was more upset that he did not win the race.

It would be one thing if Jeff Gordon, who has won 82 races, said he was going to lock himself into the Chase for the Championship so he could win another title to bolster his legacy, but drivers like Montoya have no legacy.

Guys who have won one race, or no races, should more concerned with winning than points racing.

The Chase for the Championship is not a terrible idea. The problem is when NASCAR created it they should have placed more emphasis on winning and created bigger separations within the scoring system between positions at the front of the field to prevent drivers from finding a good points spot and riding.

NASCAR is trying to use a points system designed for one type of way to win a championship after switching to a completely different system.

It’s sad that drivers consider anything other than winning the race they are in at that moment to be a good day. It’s sad to think that a driver might in the course of a race think, “I could go for it right here and have a chance to win but I’d rather stay where I am and not risk losing points.”

I don’t like to be one who criticizes but doesn’t offer solutions, so later this week I am going to offer a revised point system I believe NASCAR should consider.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “Drivers would rather Chase than Race”

  1. SB Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 6:15 am

    So, Nascar created the ‘chase’ to eliminate points racing…and it’s had the opposite effect. In fact, drivers are now points racing even earlier in the season, since only 2/3 of the races count before the Not-A-Playoff. Many of the cars in the ‘chase’ are more than 400 points behind the leader already…and you expect me to get excited about them being eligible for winning a ‘champeenship’? Sorry. I find the whole thing way too contrived to be exciting. The system may work in a sport where you have one winner and one loser at the end of the day. It just doesn’t cut it when you have 43 teams collecting points every ‘game’.

  2. Charles Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 6:38 am


    I totally agree that by making the Chase more important than the race, you will continue seeing drivers looking “down the road” where “race paying fans wanting action that day! I

    Until they give “incentive to lead laps” and make “the the race more important” you will as I have said before basically setting for 4 hours to watch the last 30 minutes of action!

    Winning is important, but if you just pay more points to win a race the action will be the same, they will lay back and only race at the end!

    The improvements need to made in the “early and mid” portains of a race, “paying points to lead laps”, will certainly “put a rabbit in front of the drivers” and then lets see how hard the COT is to pass!

    With all the factory and sponsor cut backs you will see more increase the stradegety sessions to save equipment and more boring racing if something isnt done!

    Look forward to seeing your points system Richard!

  3. Dump the Chase Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 10:34 am

    The chase is one of the things that has ruined NA$CAR racing. If the old (more appropriate for stock car racing) points system was in place, Montoya would be too far back to win the title, so he would have probably pushed for the win. Even with the chase, if he made it in, his cars aren’t consistent enough to win the title. But because the crappy chase garbage is so important nowadays he points raced. In your face NA$CRAP, it all still comes down to consistency. I can’t take this joke they cal racing seriously anymore. I now only check in from time to time for updates. Go back to the end of 2003 and reset from there. Fire Brainle$$ France.

  4. Jimbo Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 10:38 am

    For reasons unknown, we seem to want to make things more complicated than they should be. Here is a very simple solution to finding a champion each year. Regarding the points and assuming a 43 car field: First place get 43 points. Last place gets one point. In other words, your points match your finishing position. In this system, the maximum number of points to be earned is 1548 (43 points x 36 races). In my world, that is all that should be done to determine a champion. Whoever has the most points at the end of the season wins. Teams that earn the most points during a season are the best teams. By paying extra points for a win, you are throwing a monkey wrench in the system and altering our ability to see which teams are really the best. Is a team that wins 5 races and finishes last 15 times better than a team that finishes in the top 10 every week? When you can only have one winner each race, the dreaded word consistency has got to be important. As for paying points for qualifying or leading a lap, they also skew the picture. Why should a car get bonus points for staying out on the track during a caution? Why should a car get bonus points for running a qualifying set up that is good for two laps then get lapped 10 laps into the race? Pay the points for how the cars finish. No tricks, no manipulation.

  5. The Old Guy Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 11:34 am

    As I said in a post on this forum last week.

    “26 weeks of points racing and 10 weeks of hard racing is, I’m sure, not what Bill France Sr. had in mind.”

    At least, JPM admitted that what he was doing. Wonder what T. Stewart would say if you asked him if he was “Points racing.”?