NASCAR needs to give out more points for winners; double points at majors

by Ryan O'Hara On Tue, Jul. 01, 2014

Photo Credit: Mick Holtsclaw

Brian France is a good man, I truly believe he cares about NASCAR. Now, before I get tomatoes thrown at my face, I will give you my two cents. The man does not need to work anymore. Brian France could retire now and live the rest of his life fine if he managed his money well. With that being said, France is approaching NASCAR’s future with good faith, however, I think many have a different interpretation of ‘incentive.’

At first, I was not keen with the new points system, then I looked at it with an open mind, then I decided, again, that it was not a great thing for the sport.

First off, every driver must win to make the 16-car chase field, however, if 16 cars fail to reach victory lane after the 26th race of the season, the remainder of the field will be filled with drivers highest in points with no wins. If the points leader at the end of 26 races happens to have no wins, they will be added into the mix as well. If I were to win a race early in the year, I do not have to stress as much about making the chase. How is that an incentive to race harder for wins before the chase? Given, there are examples of drivers that love to win no matter what. I think we know who, but, what is the point of the first 26 races if the final 10 decide the champion?

This approach has damaged the sport. We see it in the grandstands, with some race tracks even tearing out sections of grandstands, which skews the attendance numbers to an extent. Also, the teams that do not make the chase, get little to no coverage during the final 10 races, unless you are Dale Earnhardt Jr. As a result, their brand takes a hit. But, if we did not have a chase, we would not have to worry about that, but, I have a solution that will cure some of NASCAR’s issues.

When NASCAR ran the COT, the fans complained about the look of the cars. We can all admit now, that car was really, really ugly. With the generation six car, manufacturer identity has made its long awaited return to the sport. What NASCAR needs to do next is cut back on regulations for everyone. In this economy, it is still going to be difficult for some teams, but as I stated in a previous article, Hendrick Motorsports did not begin as a powerhouse. They became a powerhouse. That is the beauty of the American dream. Hard work and dedication leads to success.

With that being said, I propose an incentive program. In 2007, NASCAR introduced bonus points for wins. It began with 10. In 2011, NASCAR introduced the 1-43 points system, which changed the number of points given, not just for wins. Instead of five points for leading a lap, it became one point. Instead of 10 points for leading the most laps, it became two. As a result, the maximum amount of points a driver could earn for one event, was 48.

Lets get rid of the chase. Nothing should be a lottery in the sport. Drivers should have to earn their stripes and earn their championships by running an entire season well enough to be called ‘champion.’ Some people will be quick to say that some non-chase championships were won by over 300 points and that would be a boring championship. People fail to realize that 300 points back then was not a very big lead. Leading up to 2010, the maximum amount of points possible in a race was 190. In 2007, Jeff Gordon would have beaten Jimmie Johnson by 352 points. 190 multiplied by two is 360. So, Gordon’s lead was nearly two races, but why punish Gordon for doing well? It sounds like the current tax code.

I would keep the 1-43 points system, but with some alterations. One point will be awarded to a driver for leading a lap, five points will be awarded to the driver who leads the most. What is the point of shooting to lead the most laps if it only means one point? That is no incentive. 10 points will be awarded to the driver who wins. As a result, a driver can earn a maximum of 59 points per race.

But, wait, there’s more! What about the majors in NASCAR? The list of majors include: The Daytona 500, Aaron’s 499, Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600, and Brickyard 400. Under the old program, the Brickyard 400 was not added on to the list, but considered a major once the program had shut down. Drivers should be encouraged to race harder for wins in these races. As a result, the winner of any of these races, receives double. For example, Kevin Harvick leads the most laps and wins the Brickyard 400. Harvick would receive two points for leading a lap, 10 points for leading the most, and 20 points for winning the race. How far would a driver push his/herself if it were for the Daytona 500? Need I mention the money and accolades come with the double points?

This brings up my final plead. Please bring back a variation of the Winston Million. The sad reality about motorsports sometimes is that every can feel the same. The atmosphere at a major should be different. During the Winston Million days, winning three of the four majors during the season, earned a driver $1 million. Only two drivers pulled off the feat, Bill Elliott (1988) and Jeff Gordon (1997). How would I change things?

For example, Kyle Larson wins the Daytona 500. Finishing second is Martin Truex Jr., and third is Kyle Busch. At the following major (Darlington), everyone who finished in the top three at the Daytona 500, would be eligible for $1 million if they were to win the next major. Under the No Bull 5 program, finishing in the top five guaranteed a spot for the extra money in the following No Bull 5 race.

Five drivers is too much. I want the competition to be tight. In addition, a podium only fits three, so this would create some exciting racing. If a driver wins three of the five majors, they will earn $2 million. If a driver wins four of the five majors, it will be upped to $3 million. If a driver wins all five majors, that driver earns $4.5 million. If no driver wins the bonus, the tie will be broken by best avg. finish in the majors. That driver will earn $250,000.

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  1. Bill H says:

    Love the thinking “outside the box” approach, Mr. Maness! One thing that NASCAR should do is stop paying points below a certain level–say 20th, or even 10th, as you suggest. Of course, front-runners who have issues in a single event and end up outside that break-point don’t like the idea. It seems to work well in Formula 1, not that NASCAR should emulate F1 or come under any FIA format, but I do see many things that perhaps should change in Cup-level as far as determining a Champion. While it can be argued that the existing points system does this already, a Performance Index that calculates a number of factors and ranks the drivers (average finishing order, total laps led–shows that the team/driver is not stroking, total time in pits–brings the crew factor into the process, average qualifying position, and a “weighting” of that calculation by wins–where no wins is 1.0, one win is 1.05, two wins is 1.1, three wins is 1.2, for example–make it progressive) through the season would serve to provide the top 16 to enter the Chase–it would be interesting to compare end-of-season results, or perhaps use this “index” to rank the drivers to provide the (now) 16 qualifiers for the Chase (after 26 races currently). The Chase for these qualifiers would then go to a points-driven scenario for the final 10 races, with each Chase-qualified driver earning from 16 to 1 point, regardless of where they finish (1st to 43rd) in any of these 10 races, and with winning races in the Chase providing a bonus–win one race, earn 1 (or some other number) bonus point, win two, earn 2 bonus points, win three, earn 3 (progressively, that’s 6 points for 3 wins in the Chase), etc. I do not think there should be a “seeding” process–every driver/team that makes the Chase starts at ZERO. If they’re already the “cream of the crop”, there should be no advantage given to any team over another heading into the Chase.

  2. Greg Maness says:

    Ryan … been a NASCAR fan since 1963 (and when you get my age I hope you will still proudly tell everyone how long you have been a fan!) … and have a degree in Computer Science (therefore, obviously a “numbers guy!”) … I have always been fascinated with points systems for racing, i.e. what determines the “true champion.” In the “olden days” when there only about 10 cars capable of winning, I believed in “consistency” should be chief in determining a champion (and boy does the current system do that!). But, now I believe it should come down to “finishing up front.” I experimented a few years ago with a point system where whomever won the most races would be the champion regardless if someone finished 2nd in all 36 races — just one win put you ahead of them. Didn’t seem as fair as I thought. But, now I keep a “fun point system” that awards points only to the Top 10 finishers — 1 point for 10th; 2 points for 9th; 4 points for 8th — doubling all the way to 512 points for 1st! Winning the mosts races doesn’t gurantee a championship (as of 02-July my points leader is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with 2130 points over Jimmie Johnson’s 2011), but finishing “up front” is primary key (i.e. Matt Kenseth is 11th with 522 points — and is behind all race winners, including 10th place Kurt Busch, 768 points). I do, however, believe all races should pay equal points because not doing so would lessen the importance in the diversity of the races and the tracks. You have my e-mail address — drop me a line if you would like more information on my “50 year studies!” Keep up the good work!!

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