Blog Entry

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

Posted on: January 26, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2011 9:44 pm
Posted By Pete Pistone

CONCORD, N.C. - The winds of change blew through NASCAR as expected on Wednesday night during CEO Brian France's annual "State of the Sport" address. Now we'll have to see if it's nothing but a lot of hot air.

As expected, France laid out huge changes to the NASCAR championship system that are intended to impact both the regular season and the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But at the end of the day fans may be even more confused on how NASCAR tabulates points and crowns its champion.

Brian France (Getty Images) The championship system that had been in place for more than three decades has been ditched in favor of a "simpler" format that awards points on a 43-1 scale through the finishing field. As with the previous plan, bonus points will be distributed for winning the race, leading a lap or leading the most laps.

However although the numerals in the post-race results rundown may look different the end result will be nearly the same.  The emphasis on winning that NASCAR has preached in recents months and years wasn't addressed at all. Consistency will be paramount in winning a championship as it has been for more than sixty years.

Winning does play a role in at least making the Chase with the top ten in points after the 26th race of the regular season joined by the next two drivers (who reside within the top twenty in the standings) with the most victories. If such a policy were in play last season, Jamie McMurray - despite missing the Chase cut sitting outside the first twelve in the point standings - would have made the playoffs on the strength of his three victories.

But let's not get mired in too many of the specifics of numbers and distribution and making the twelve driver Chase field. For all intents and purposes not much has changed except a few digits.

Rather let's look at a bigger picture and simply ask - why?

Why did NASCAR feel compelled to scrap a point system that had served the sport since 1975. Why did the sanctioning body make changes to its controversial Chase championship format for the fourth time since its inception in 2004? And what was the reason to ignore what France himself said two years ago that the best course of action for the NASCAR was to stay the course and not make any huge modifications to the sport?

Only those inside the halls in Daytona Beach know those answers for sure. But the perception from many - including the most important faction of all the fan base - is that there is no clear direction in major league stock car racing.

All sports make changes to their formats for a variety of reasons. Whether it's a designated hitter in baseball, wild cards in the NFL, a shootout in hockey or the three point shot in the NBA. Sports need to evolve from time to time and play to the tastes of their audience. NASCAR is no different but since graduating to the level of big time mainstream sport about ten years ago, the sanctioning body has reached the tipping point in the change category.

The very credibility of NASCAR has taken a hit in recent years, not so much for what has changed but rather for the frequency of those changes.

How can a championship format be validated when the parameters change on nearly a yearly basis? Traditions are built in sports over time but NASCAR seems to change its mind as much as a teenage girl shopping for a prom dress.

After two of its biggest stars in Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon missed the Chase early in its existence, the field was raised from ten to twelve drivers in what appeared to be a response to ensure its names were part of the playoffs.

When fans complained that winning wasn't as big a deal as it should be, the Chase seedings were suddenly based on victories in the regular season.

Now after McMurray won three of the sport's biggest events of the season last year including the Daytona 500 yet wasn't eligible for the championship, the new Chase policy reflects a correction for that scenario.

With sagging attendance and declining television ratings, perhaps the panic button is within reach more than it should be. While those numbers are down, NASCAR still ranks behind the NFL on TV and regularly draws 100,000 or more fans on a consistent basis. Still nothing to sneeze at.

The on track product was the shining star a year ago and the "Boys Have at It" era did exactly what NASCAR had hoped for when that mantra was rolled out in January of 2010.  Yet there was not an even a mention of that at this year's "State of the Sport" address.

That tells fans there is no consistency within the sport, that whatever might have seemed important earlier gets shuffled to the back burner in short order if another flavor of the day issue needs to be addressed. And that more than anything is hurting the sport. It's not Jimmie Johnson's dominance, crummy television broadcasts or people butchering the National Anthem.

Let the racers race. Keep putting on what I still believe is the best form of racing in this country and maybe around the world. Build the personalities of the sport into household names and let the fans feel they have a vested interest in a sport that became huge for those very reasons.

Mixing up points, changing championship systems, making knee jerk reactions and swapping one set of numbers for another won't do anything to engage fans in NASCAR.

By the way, under the new point system if a driver wins the race, leads a lap and leads the most laps his total points for the effort will be.......48.

For those of you keeping score at home that's Jimmie Johnson's number.

Unless NASCAR decides to change it.

Category: Auto Racing

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: January 31, 2011 7:53 pm

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

I like the new system because you can calculate the relative standings in your head as they race.  Also the results will LOOK much closer than in the current format.  What I have not seen is what will happen when the chase starts.  Do the drivers all start with zero?  Do they start with 10 points, 5 points or one point per win?  I have not heard that being addressed.

Since: Sep 7, 2007
Posted on: January 28, 2011 7:04 pm

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

Screw that.. let the winner outnumber the 2nd place guy 2 to 1, then we will see some recent racing

Since: Jun 12, 2008
Posted on: January 28, 2011 2:34 pm

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

Bottom Line "We're becoming a nation of wussies" I'm curious where is all this Fan outcry for the points system to change ?  You know what this is?  It's NASCAR's leadership asleep at the wheel, knee jerk reaction to Jimmie winning 5 straight.   You know what's going to happen for 2011, Jimmie will miss qualifying for the Top 10 Chase, but will make it in on the wild card and Win it again....IN YOUR FACE NASCAR

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: January 28, 2011 12:31 pm

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

Broncos - Thanks for agreeing with at least 1 of my points. 

However what makes my 1st point different from as you say "the 43rd place finisher gets one point", is that you only get the point if you qualify on time, so those that earn a provisional starting spot, don't get the point.  This also means that if you earn your way in and finish 43rd without leading a lap you could still get 2 points.  Maybe those start and park guys would need to step up qualifying a little bit to get themselves into the race on time.

Since: Oct 2, 2006
Posted on: January 28, 2011 11:00 am

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

Can't disagree with your second point.  But the first one is already in effect.  If you qualify for a race, you already earn a point.  Even the 43rd place finisher gets one point...

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: January 28, 2011 10:09 am

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

I agree Mikey, I don't think NASCAR ran the whole 'save room in the Chase for race winners' concept through all of the scenarios before making that announcement.  There are quite a few options that could really put a black eye on the sport if one of these wacky scenarios plays out.  Just think how excited Larry Mac will be explaining to the viewers just what needs to happen in order for so-and-so to work their way into the Chase.  I can here him now, I also see me turning the channel!!!!

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: January 28, 2011 9:50 am

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

I think NASCAR really, REALLY , should have tweaked the points just a little more to get the maximum points for a race off of the 48 number, and make it 50.  While yes, I'm not a fan of the 48 bunch, there is a little more substance to getting the number up to 50.

Here's what I think they should have done which I think would have also made the racing a little more interesting...

1st - Every driver making the race by Qualifying on time earns a point.  Why not make 'earning' your way into an event worth something.  This would change make the teams have to try a little harder in qualifying knowing that there is a valuable point on the line.

Oh and one more little sneaky modification to earning (and keeping) the point for qualifying - if you go to a back up car, then you don't earn the point.  After all the car you qualified with isn't the one you are starting the race with.  So you better protect it during Happy Hour, if you want to earn your point.

2nd - Make the leading the most laps bonus 2 points.  Quite frankly, I'm more impressed if you lead the first 499 laps of a race then if you lead the last one.  Over the years there have been many drivers/teams that have simply dominated an event, doing everything they could to run up front for darn near the whole event, only to blow a tire with just a couple of laps to go.  I think the team that ran up front the most deserves more points then just 1 point after all they did worked hard to run up front for a long as they did. 

These minor tweaks would have put a lot more emphasis on the performance for the entire event and not just how you finish.  Why not make everything you do for a race worth a little something?  After all, if NASCAR can penalize you during any of the pieces leading up to and including the race, then quite frankly they should be worth a little something.

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: January 28, 2011 9:40 am

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

What will NASCAR do is say Michael Waltrip who is running a part time schedule wins all three plate races before the chase then runs say another 10 to 12 races and makes the top 20 in points, makes the chase and then wins it all, running a part time schedule?  Or lets say JJ wins the 3 of the first 5 races, runs well the next 10 weeks is ahead in the points and then takes 4 weeks off for a family vacation in the middle of the season.  When he comes back he is still in the top 20 in points, he makes the chase and wins the championship.  Or better yet, JJ has 4 or 5 wins, with 3 to go before the chase, he is locked into the chase Dale Jr. is sitting in 11th, with little chance of making the top 10 without a lot of help with no wins.  JJ, starts and parks those last 3 races allowing Dale Jr. to sneak into 10th position,  JJ drops to 13th but that's ok he is in with his wins and all is well. 

I can see something like this happening if there were teammate close to missing the chase and another in the top 10 has enough wins to qualify for the chase no matter what.  Where's the integerty to that.

Since: Jan 4, 2011
Posted on: January 27, 2011 11:27 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jan 4, 2011
Posted on: January 27, 2011 11:22 pm

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

99% of today's internet postings are about opinion, insults, and a waste of life.  Thanks for your post that falls in the remaining 1%.  You took the time to figure out the facts before coming to your conclusion.  I wish more people would do what you did.

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