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Here’s a points system that would create better racing

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:

1. 275
2. 200
3. 190
4. 180
5. 170
6. 165
7. 160
8. 155
9. 150
10. 145
11. 142
12. 139
13. 136
14. 133
15. 130
16. 127
17. 124
18. 121
19. 118
20. 115
21. 113
22. 111
23. 109
24. 107
25. 105
26. 103
27. 101
28. 99
29. 97
30. 95
31. 93
32. 91
33. 89
34. 87
35. 85
36-43. 80

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

Topics: Articles |

11 Responses to “Here’s a points system that would create better racing”

  1. Stoner Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 5:56 am

    That’s pretty good Rich, but, I have to play devil’s advocate here.

    For starters, I think it may be too complex. Some fans to this day can’t wrap their head around the difference between owner’s points and driver’s points. This points system may make their brain explode.

    Second, that gap between 1st and 2nd is a great idea. I too think that there should be more emphasis put on winning. It’s a double edged sword though. With a gap like that I’m afraid that the “bump n’ run” would become common place and IMO there is no place for that in any form of racing.

  2. Bob Paxton Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 7:54 am

    This is pretty similar to something I came up with a few years ago and used to post to

    I heartily agree there should be a significant gap between first and second, and a flat point payout in the back so there’s nothing to be gained by patching up a wreck and riding around in everyone else’s way.

    I didn’t have the qualifying bonuses and my lap leader bonus was a bit different—a pool of 30 points divided proportionally among the top three lap leaders.

    They said they listened to the fans on the double file restarts. Maybe they’ll listen to us on the point system.

  3. Tom Broderick Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 8:10 am


    I love just about every aspect of this idea except the qualifying part. I just don’t like the idea of a driver receiving points for something (qualifying) that did not occur during the race. In my opinion, awarding points should only occur after the drop of the green flag. The awarding of points alone is incentive enough to motivate drivers to race hard. Besides crew chiefs and drivers have enough to think about in regards to race strategy to now have to factor in a bunch of qualifying related points incentives. Too complicated and confusing for the fans as well. Keep it simple… more points for winning is all that’s needed.

  4. Gary Franklin Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Hey Rich, I have no problem with your system. I would like to do away with the top 35 making the race.
    I would change the Chase to a real plyoff system. I would take the top 15 in points with 10 races left and eliminate the worst finisher after each race, that would leave 6 guys with an equal chance to win the championship in the last race of the year. NO bonus points for winning a race, the way you have it if a guy wins 10 races before the chase he has a 200 point lead over the guy that hasn’t won.
    Oh by the way I would love to see someone win the cahse without a win, would be to funny.

  5. Bill B Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Are you an accoutant or do you work for the IRS by any chance? LOL
    Your system would definitely require a calculator and probably an excel spreadsheet.

    I just made this comment on another site and it applies here. Get rid of the chase. My logic is that those in contention for the championship in any points system will always have to be aware of, and race for, points. The chase system has changed that number from 3 - 5 (or 10% of the field) drivers to 15-20 drivers (or 45% of the field). Also keep in mind that those top 20 drivers are probably the only one’s with a chance to win in any given weekend because they are the best teams (with or without points).
    All the chase has done is give a bunch of guys the illusion that they can win the championship if they just make the chase. The reality is that they probably can’t win if they aren’t one of those top 3-5 drivers because they just aren’t running well enough to compete.
    In the old system by this point in the season if you were 300+ points behind you realized the championship was a lost cause so you would be more apt to go for wins. What does it matter if you finish 6th or 8th in the final standings (yes I know more money is paid to the 6th place driver but it would probably be a wash if you won a couple of races along the way because you weren’t points racing).
    Those few drivers with a realistic chance at the championship will have to points race no matter what system is used but the rest will be freed from worrying about points.

  6. John Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I like the idea, but to give it some weight, you should do your homework a little more and go back over the last few years’ scoring data and see how it would have changed things. Better yet, it’s summertime, so snag an intern or two and have them do the homework for you.

  7. Charles Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Richard I like your point system better than what they have now!

    But it seems not to address the main thing that most fans are complaing about and that is boring races!

    In my opinion your system is still putting its main emphasis on wining the point title,and to a degree the race as well! but by only giving the leader of the most laps 25 extra points that is not enough incentive to create passing,but its better than what they have now !It will still be sitting 4 hours to see the lasts 30 minutes of action!
    I still think Nascar needs to make “the race” more important”, and demote the Chase! most fans on TV or in the stands want better action in the early and mid portians of the race plus more passing! I have seen many of winners who only led one lap of the race, because of gas mileage, wreck, blown tire etc!

    To me its not just about winning its “how you win”, are you going to fight for the lead or are you going to lay back and win at the end!, I still think that by paying points to lead laps is a better system, it will make the racing better in all parts of the race, not just at the end!
    Lets forget how they win the Chase but how they win the race!

  8. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    You want incentive to run up front and race the whole way through? Then I think 1 point should be given to a driver for every lap led. You lead 200 laps,200 points. Then give a 75 point bonus for winning the race. That way EVERY one is itching to get out front. You’ll see some wild risks taken then like the old days. Sure as hell beats stroking it.

  9. Bob Paxton Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 6:24 pm


    Only one problem with your idea to make every lap led worth one point. You’d have 500 points up for grabs at Martinsville and Bristol, but just 200 for the Daytona 500 and 188 at the Talladega races.

    Points should be paid according to finishing position and I think either Rich’s system or my system of awarding bonus points for leading laps would work nicely.

  10. D Jones Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Rich, I like your idea. Your points plan is no worse than how teams get into the Daytona 500.

    However, I like Gary Franklin’s idea better. Eliminations. Isn’t that what the other sports do? You lose, you’re out.

    Meld both of your ideas together and then you guys can take over the Emperor’s job.

  11. Charles Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 6:58 am

    to Bob Paxton

    Paying points to lead laps is the only way to create exictement!
    You could easly change tracks with only 200 laps or 300 laps and let it count as 2 points for each lap led! Then give the winner a little bonus!

    But if you dont give big incentive to lead, just to finish you just as well leave it alone! They will just have incentive to finish not lead!

    Paying points to lead laps “will put a rabbit in front on the drivers” and then create more passing, “boring races” is the main complaint of Nascar races and when points is more important than wins under todays system, lets create a system that gives them a chance to pass for the lead instead of riding around just to finish to get them!