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.
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