NASCAR’s new simplified points system was designed to make it easier for fans to know right away where their favorite driver is located in the points standings.
Right about the time NASCAR was putting the final touches on this new system, another change concerning points had already been finalized.
NASCAR informed drivers they could only earn points in one series this year and must declare pre-season which series it was.
After two weeks of points earning races, the combination of changes are not quite as simple as thought and could be pointing to a need for further review.
As the races are unfolding, historians may have already begun re-writing the season ending record books.
2011 will go down in history as the first time all of NASCAR’s available points will not be awarded, and quite possibly the first time in Nationwide history the crowned champion did not win a race or post a top three, four, or five finish through out the season.
It took NASCAR six tries before finally issuing points to the race winner. For the first time, the Daytona 500 winner was not the point’s leader entering the second race of the season.
No series regular in the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series or Sprint Cup Series, visited Victory Lane at Daytona, leaving all first place points un-awarded.
At Phoenix Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race and led all the laps. Therefore, first place points and all bonus points were left on the table.
No championship points were issued for first, second, third, fourth or sixth place in the Nationwide race at Phoenix. This situation, while unusual, is likely to happen again before the season is over.
Rusty Wallace, owner of Rusty Wallace Racing, bought enough owner points in the pre-season from Roger Penske to put himself among the top 35 in owner’s points in the Sprint Cup Series.
When I asked Roger Penske about this transaction, he said Wallace was a longtime part of his organization and doing this was a no-brainer.
I also asked Penske if he felt this was setting a precedent for future races. Penske assured me this type of thing has been going on for years and happens often behind the scenes among other teams.
Wallace’s newly purchased position in owner’s points guaranteed his driver, Steven Wallace, who also happens to be his son, a spot in the Daytona 500.
It has never been disclosed just how much Wallace paid for the points, or what the going rate for owner’s points is.
Criteria for price and value are almost certainly determined by how lucrative the event would be to a driver, or potential sponsor, and the guaranteed prize money.
Last place prize money for the season opening Daytona 500, arguably the biggest race of the season, was $268,550.00.
Rusty Wallace Racing didn’t submit an entry for the Subway Fit 500 at Phoenix, so his purchased points lay dormant.
Front Row Motorsports, benefiting from RWR’s non-entry, moved into the top 35 in owner’s points and were instantly assured a starting position at Phoenix.
Business practices like this allow the boardroom to be used as the qualifying vehicle instead of a race car.
Unregulated, this type of purchased qualifying will become more business as usual among owners. Points will be used as bargaining tools and may begin to change owners quicker than Charlie Sheen’s latest date.
On the other side of this coin, how do you take away points from a driver when no points are given?
Michael Waltrip won the Camping World Truck Series event at Daytona, but earned no points for the win because that’s not the box he checked.
His winning truck subsequently failed post-race inspection.
When a penalty is issued, and the offending driver collected no points, how do you penalize them, unless it’s monetary only?
Point’s penalties came about as a way to punish drivers and teams more severely when infractions occurred.
Taking away points dramatically changes the championship landscape.
In a nutshell, a non-points participating driver doesn’t have as much to lose.
If the owner is docked points for an infraction, they can, as in Rusty Wallace’s situation, purchase points from another owner to meet their needs.
There is no longer a big picture for non-points drivers. Each race can be seen as a battle that has to be entered, and, or won, at just about any cost.