Crunching numbers after Charlotte

October, 19, 2010

Do a simple Google search (or whatever your favorite Internet search engine is, I'm not here to judge) for outdated laws, and you'll give yourself a few minutes of chuckling.

For example, in West Virginia, you can't hold a public office if you've ever participated in a duel with a deadly weapon. In Tennessee, it is illegal to shoot any game other than whales from a moving automobile. And here in Connecticut, you can't walk backwards after sunset. I'm going to break this one on my way to my car tonight, just because I consider myself an outlaw.

Now, allow me to group NASCAR's points system in with those other outdated ideas.

Ed Hinton brought this up on "NASCAR Now" on Monday, and it's long been an issue which I've tried to bring to the voting public's attention. Jamie McMurray didn't make the Chase despite his two regular-season wins. If McMurray had made the Chase, he'd currently be fourth in points, just 87 behind Jimmie Johnson.

The solution seems simple. Offer a whopping number of points (say 200 or 250) for a win. Then drop it down to 150 for second. Points drop incrementally from there until you get to 25th or 30th or so, then a set number of points from everyone finishing 30th or lower, say 10.

Advantages: It rewards winning to promote racing up front. It'll keep damaged cars off the racetrack (since there's no difference finishing 30th and 40th) to cut down on debris cautions. Plus going in increments of five or 10 points would make the points easier to digest.

Disadvantages: None

The system NASCAR uses now was invented to reward consistency. It would force drivers who normally wouldn't go to tracks far from their backyard to show up in order to win the title. Now, however, we get all the top teams coming out every week, the money, fame and prestige of winning the title is more than enough incentive, so we no longer have to entice teams with points to get them to show up.

The answer to fixing the system isn't creating a system where there are all sorts of wild cards to get drivers into the Chase. We don't need to give a multiple winner or the Daytona 500 champ a free pass into the Chase. We need a system that if a driver, such as McMurray, goes out and wins multiple times and runs second several times to boot, he can't miss the field because the points system won't allow it.

It's so easy, and my consulting fee is relatively low.

Playing Spoiler

Let's not ignore what McMurray's done this year. From nearly out of a job to three wins, including two in the biggest races of the year, is a turnaround worth admiring. He's won three times this year, or 9.7 percent of the races. Before that, he had won three of his 258 career starts, just 1.2 percent.

He also became just the third driver to win multiple Chase races as a non-Chaser, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart each have won three. He's also the only non-Chaser to win a Chase race over the last three seasons, with his Talladega win last year.

One more great, or pointless, research nugget. McMurray now has six career Cup Series wins, the only driver with exactly six Cup wins. A number of drivers have seven, a number have five. McMurray is the only one with six.

Trivia break: McMurray started 27th on Saturday night. Who is the only driver to win from deeper in the field at Charlotte?

That Dude In The 48

I don't have records for the most consecutive blogs appeared in, but I figure Jimmie Johnson is getting up there.

Johnson had yet another top-three finish Sunday night, his fourth in a row and 33rd in his Chase career. The only other driver with even half as many top-three Chase finishes as Johnson is Jeff Gordon, who has 17. From there, it drops to Greg Biffle with 15 and Carl Edwards with 14.

Johnson's numbers obviously are going to drop off at Charlotte from where they were from 2003-06, when he failed to finish outside the top three in eight races, but he's still put up a 9.8 career average finish at Charlotte, despite finishing 37th there earlier this year. That's the second-best mark all-time at Charlotte with a minimum of five races, trailing only Rex White.

Trivia break: If we drop that minimum down to three races, who takes over the all-time top spot at Charlotte?

History Denied

I wrote briefly in my blog about how Kurt Busch had a chance to make history at Charlotte by becoming the first driver to win both points races and the All-Star Race at Charlotte in the same season. Well, he ended up making history, but of the wrong variety.

Busch was the seventh driver to go into the fall Charlotte races with an opportunity for the sweep, but he's the first of those seven to have a finish outside the top five. Davey Allison (1991) and Kasey Kahne (2008) each finished second, the closest to pulling off the sweep.

Trivia break: In honor of the Tim Richmond "30 for 30" special, who are the four drivers that won more races in a season than Richmond's seven during the 1980s?

Trivia Break Answers

1. Jimmie Johnson started 37th when he won at Charlotte in 2003.

2. Joey Logano has a 8.5 career average finish in four career Charlotte starts.

3. Bobby Allison (8 in 1982), Darrell Waltrip (12 in 2 seasons), Bill Elliott (11 in 1985) and Dale Earnhardt (11 in 1987) were the only ones to top Richmond's seven wins in 1986.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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