By admin | June 23, 2009
By Richard Allen
At the beginning of the 2004 season NASCAR instituted a new way of determining its season champion. The Chase for the Championship was designed to create a meaningful final stretch of the season rather than a coast to the trophy by a driver who had built up such a big lead that he could not be caught over the course of the final ten races.
With a relatively new television contract in place NASCAR felt as though it had to do something to add excitement to the portion of its season that was going up against the NFL every Sunday afternoon.
In 2003, Matt Kenseth did exactly what NASCAR and the networks feared most. He was so far ahead in the standings that he clinched the Winston Cup(Sprint Cup) title before the last race of the season even started.
Although many hate it, I do not think the Chase for the Championship is an entirely bad idea. The problem is NASCAR chose to use an old points system designed for the 1970s to reward a driver for showing up to every race and being consistent.
Kenseth used that system to perfection in 2003. He won the title by piling up a number of Top 10 finishes while only winning one race that season.
In 2004, admit it or not, NASCAR instituted the Chase as a reaction to Kenseth’s 2003 title run of consistency. But instead of changing the way points were awarded they continued to use the system intended to encourage finishing rather than winning.
Much like the Federal government, NASCAR instituted the plan without planning the plan.
Juan Pablo Montoya summed it up last weekend when he said going into a race in which he was considered a strong favorite to win that he intended to points race.
The system I am proposing is meant to encourage harder racing. Here’s how it works:
First, the winner must be rewarded for winning. For 1st place a driver would receive 275 points, 75 points more than 2nd place. Rather than the Socialistic like system of giving 2nd place almost as much as the winner, there is a real incentive to go out and win races.
Also, when the points are reset at Chase time, 20 points should be awarded for every win a driver has, rather than the current ten.
Within the remainder of the Top 5 there would be a gap of 10 points between each position, rather than the current five. This would hopefully encourage drivers to race instead of ride in a comfortable points position.
From 6th through 10th place there would be a drop off of 5 points per position. 11th through 20th would see a drop of 3 points per position. 21st through 35th would drop off 2 points per spot.
Everyone 36th or worse would receive 80 points to make it useless for damaged cars to return to the track, and thus be the cause of those debris cautions.
The larger gaps between the top positions should help increase racing where it matters most, at the front of the field.
Aside from the point gaps, I have devised a bonus plan to further encourage hard racing. After all, bonuses are supposed to be performance based. Those who perform best should be rewarded the most.
The pole winner under my system would be awarded a 25 point bonus. The 2nd fastest qualifier would get 20 points, 3rd would receive 15, 4th gets 10 and 5th gets 5 points.
There is a reason for these qualifying bonuses. That reason is there are going to be bonus points awarded for passing as well. Each driver will be awarded one point for every position he improves over his qualifying spot at the finish of the race. In other words, if a driver qualifies 20th and finishes 10th he gets a 10 point bonus.
The qualifying bonuses have to be awarded because those who qualify well would have little opportunity to gain bonus points otherwise.
Here’s where some real strategy could come into play. If a team does not think they have a good enough car to qualify in the Top 5 they may choose to sandbag in time-trials. However, doing so could result in putting the driver back in the pack where trouble often occurs. And, at places like Bristol and Martinsville that strategy could backfire by putting the driver in a position in which he might get lapped early.
A driver would not be rewarded if that team was forced to start at the rear because of an engine change. He would only receive bonus points based on his original starting spot.
To further encourage racing at the front of the field, a 25 point bonus will be given for leading the most laps. The driver who leads the second most laps will get 15 points and the driver who leads the third most laps will receive 5 points. There will be no bonus for simply leading a single lap.
I believe this scoring system would force drivers to race hard. It would be to their benefit to work for every position, beginning with the qualifying session. Not only would there be reason to lead, but also to move forward from every position on the track.
I know there are a lot of numbers involved but we live in a highly technical age with scores of statistical types who would relish the idea of so much math being involved. However, even with the numbers involved, I know this system is not too complicated. The reason I know that is I came up with it, and I am a history teacher and not a mathematician.
Here is the breakdown for each position:
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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