Thursday, January 27, 2011

NASCAR's New Point System Could Be Better

NASCAR unveiled its new points system. It's much simpler, acting a lot like those Associated Press and ESPN Coaches polls for college sports. With 43 drivers in a race, the winner of an event gets 43 points. Second place gets 42 points. And so on down the line until the 43rd position gets 1 point.

The race winner also gets 3 bonus points. They will also get a point for leading a lap (as would anyone in the race). Whomever leads the most laps will gain another point.

I like where this thinking is headed ... but it didn't go all the way. The points system had to be made simpler as no one really understands who gets what and when. Now, it seems rather easier to know.

However, winning isn't as important as being consistent.

Race winners should get 50 points no matter what. Give them 50 points and make second place 42 pts and so on. Get rid of the "leading a lap" bonus. You really don't need that. Then award the driver who led the most laps with 2 bonus points. That seems more fair.

They did a little bit to help winning. The top 10 drivers in points clinch a spot in the Chase For the Cup. The two "wildcards" will be the two drivers with the most wins in the 11-20 range. That would mean you could have guys on the bubble really attempting to win races instead of "racing not to lose." Other than that, the "racing not to lose" still applies. Especially in the Chase.

In fact, it will get worse during the Chase. No one will take any type of chance during the Chase because falling flat in a race has much bigger consequences than it did before.

Under the old format, the winner of a race received at least 190 points (195 if he led the most laps) with 34 points going to the guy who finishes in last place. That means finishing in last means you got just 18% of the points the winner did. The winner gained 5 1/2 times more points that the last place finisher.

The new rules means that the last place finisher got just 2% of the points the winner got. The winner gained 47 times more points than the last place finisher.

That seems fair for the people winning races ... but without any clear advantage in winning above finishing second, it makes more sense to concentrate more on NOT finishing near the bottom than finishing near the top. Basically it isn't worth risking winning a race if you could get knocked in the bottom 10.

NASCAR also failed to solve one of its biggest problems: races being too long. With all the caution flags and restarts, races have gotten out of hand. They could cut these races down to fit in a 3-hour blocked window by shaving off some laps from the total.

We're on the right track. It just seems like we aren't worried about winning.

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