Rumored points system good and bad

January, 18, 2011

Here's the point: Any change in the current NASCAR points system should emphasize winning.

If the reports on the possible changes are true, the new plan only goes halfway to fixing the problem.

The Associated Press reported Monday that NASCAR soon could announce a new points system based on a one-point difference per finishing spot.

It would be a simplified system of 43 points for winning, 42 for second, etc., with each spot decreasing by a point. Last place would earn one point.

That does nothing to emphasize winning. It's actually worse than the current system, which has 185 points for winning (plus 10 possible bonus points) and 34 points for last place.

However, NASCAR also might allow some race winners into the Chase without qualifying on points.

One proposal is to reduce the guaranteed playoff spots from 12 to 10, making the final two spots based on victories. The two drivers outside the top 10 with the most victories would earn a playoff spot. Ties supposedly would be settled based on the points standings.

If this happens, call it the McMurray Rule. Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the 2010 regular season, but didn't make the Chase. If this plan had been in place last year, McMurray would have made the playoff.

This would be an improvement, but a better idea would be to allow all regular-season race winners into the Chase as long as they finished in the top 20 in the standings.

The overall points change for each race would not emphasize winning. It would increase the problem of points racing that has plagued NASCAR for years.

Unless the winner receives a big bonus, the difference between winning and finishing second is a smaller ratio than the current system. The incentive to win is diminished because it doesn't bring enough of a reward.

Here's an unusual, but accurate, example to prove it if this is the new system. Let's say a driver wins five races in the Chase and receives a one-point bonus for leading a lap in each race. But he also finishes 35th in the other five races. He would earn 265 points.

Another driver could finish 16th in all 10 Chase events and earn 280 points.

I don't know about you, but I want the guy who won five times, regardless of where he finished in the other Chase races, to have more points than the guy who didn't even have a top-15 finish.

Whatever new system NASCAR employs, it must have a bigger points reward for winning.

The proposed system also would bring a bigger points penalty for a bad finish. In the current system, excluding bonus points, first place is worth 5.1 times as much as last place.

In the proposed system, first place is worth 43 times as much as last place. That's a gigantic penalty for someone who blew an engine. That's not emphasizing winning. It's destroying the loser.

Obviously, this proposed system would keep the points tighter among the top 10, but it's a bit of an artificial closeness. It means fewer points between each position, but it also would be more difficult to catch up once a driver fell behind.

Some of the proposed changes will be discussed later this week during the testing session at Daytona, but the announcement on the entire plan is expected next week during the annual NASCAR media tour.

If this is the plan, it's half good and half bad. Adding winners to the Chase is a good move. Making even less of a difference between winning and finishing second is a step backward.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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