Matt Kenseth ruined NASCAR. He did not mean to do it, and we did not know at the time that he did, but it would seem his single win 2003 championship changed everything. Maybe if his personality was more like a Busch, a Harvick, or a Stewart, who would answer such criticism with a simple “kiss my ass” it might have been different. It was also the season Ryan Newman won eight races, but was a distant sixth in the standings.
Of course, the Chase was supposed to be the remedy. That was before we discovered that NASCAR had no interest in determining who was the best over the course of the season, but rather sought a gimmick to keep people watching to the end. A final four with winner take all, with wins being the determining factor, is now supposed to be the answer. This ignores the fact that a driver can still go winless, make the final four, and finish third at Homestead and win it all. So, the season crown could wind up being meaningless, no matter what legend might come out and parrot the company line.
Maybe a three race playoff, featuring the three track configurations (short, long, and road) and only those 16 drivers (or whatever cut off line they determine) taking part might be a more legitimate solution. Then again, one driver could win the first two and then we are back to a meaningless season finale.
Still, 2003’s result started the changes. What if we had a system at that time which rewarded wins, Top Fives, and Top Tens more? Might that have changed things? The new points system was a good start, so rather than reinvent the wheel let us start with that. I thought giving up 70 or 75 points for a win, extra for Top Fives and Top Tens might do the trick. I mean, close to 40 points between first and 11th should have altered the landscape somewhat, at least enough to close the gap back in 2003.
Actually, it would not. Kenseth, who lost an engine and was dead last at Homestead that year, would have finished well ahead of Jimmie Johnson and Newman. Kenseth was just too consistent, consistently high that is, to be caught as this system would have rewarded the eventual champion for his 25 Top Tens that year. So, what if we only gave the steroid treatment for wins, and leave everything else the same?
Just how many points should a win be worth? 65…70…75…more? In doing so, might we also be able to see at least one contender within 30 or so points from the leader going into the final race of the season? Hey, if it ticks all the boxes, including the “game seven” moment desired by Mr. France, so much the better, but with no gimmicks and no Chase.
Here are what the standings would have looked like going into Homestead for the season finale based on those numbers for 2003, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Do any of them tickle your own fancy? Do any of them identify a champion you would recognize as the very best on that particular season?
|2003||Wins||65 pts||70 pts||75 pts|
Awarding the winner a maximum 65 points, 2003 would have seen Ryan Newman entering Homestead with an 11 point lead over Matt Kenseth. Increase the winner’s total to 70, and Newman’s eight win season would have jumped him 46 points ahead. At 75, he would have had it already won, going in 81 points on top.
|2011||Wins||65 pts||70 pts||75 pts|
In 2011, Tony Stewart beat Carl Edwards in the Chase by win totals (5-to-1). Had they awarded up to 65 points for a win, Edwards would have entered Homestead 20 points up on Kevin Harvick, with Stewart 39 behind. At 70, the gap narrows to just 5 points, with Smoke 24 in arrears, while at 75, Harvick is up by ten and Stewart within 19 of the leader. Stewart’s Homestead win could have given him the title over Edwards by 1, 6, or 11 points.
|2012||Wins||65 pts||70 pts||75 pts|
2012 was claimed by Brad Keselowski via the Chase, but as both he and Johnson were tied in wins, Keselowski would have entered Homestead up by eight points regardless.
|2013||Wins||65 pts||70 pts||75 pts|
That brings us to last season when Johnson went into Homestead with the advantage but with Kenseth having one more win to his credit. Award up to 65 points per win, and Johnson leads by 48 points. By 70, and the lead is cut to 43. Award the victor up to 75 points, and we have a 38 point gap.
If wins mean almost everything, then as long as the challenger has a hope for the title with a win at Homestead, we should be satisfied. By awarding the winner 69 or 70 points for victory, the gap between first and second would be between 25 and 28 points, depending on race bonuses. In 2003, Kenseth would still have claimed the crown with a victory as long as Newman finished no better than 22nd. In 2011, Stewart would have won the title with a win, no matter what Edwards did that day. The same goes for Johnson in 2012 against Keselowski. Last season, a Kenseth win and a Johnson finish of no better than 18th would have given Matt his second championship.
No gimmicks. No Chase. Sometimes game seven moments are not to be. Win 27 races, like Richard Petty did in 1967, and you just hand the sceptre to the King. No other result would have been acceptable.
What do you think?