NASCAR Chairman Brian France announced some key changes in the sport on Wednesday.
France confirmed a complete restructuring of the NASCAR points system; something that had been anticipated since last week. The new points system is designed to be more simple than the previous system, which had been in place since 1975.
The new system will award 43 points to the winner, 42 points to second, 41 to third, and so on down to the 43rd-place finisher, who will earn one point.
Bonus points include one point for leading a lap, an additional point for leading the most laps, and three additional bonus points for winning the race. When you figure that the winner earns 43 points, plus an additional three for winning, plus an additional one point for leading a lap, the winner will end up with no less than 47 points. If the winner leads the most laps, he will earn 48 points.
Each win during the first 26 races is also worth three bonus points when the Chase starts. So if Jimmie Johnson wins 8 races during the regular season, Kasey Kahne wins zero, and both drivers make the Chase, Johnson will start the playoffs with a 24-point lead over Kahne. If Hamlin has 6 wins, Johnson will start with a 6-point lead over Hamlin.
And speaking of the Chase, NASCAR has decided to keep the 10-race playoff, with one major change.
The top 10 drivers in the standings after 26 races will make the Chase. Two additional “wild card” spots will be awarded to the two drivers outside the top 10 in points who have the most wins in the first 26 races. The wild card drivers will not be awarded bonus points for their wins to start the Chase, which means if Johnson wins 8 races, they would start the Chase 24 points behind Johnson, just like Kahne in the example above.
If one driver outside the top 10 in points has three wins, and two drivers are tied at two wins, it is likely that the driver with two wins who is highest in the points would get a wild card spot, along with the driver with three wins. Though no such tiebreaker has been announced yet.
So with all that settled, it’s time for some analysis.
My initial concern with the new system was that it would not reward winning very much. That concern has been addressed with the bonus points going to the winner of each race, and the separation in points from first to second. They could have maybe awarded a few more bonus points for winning, but this will do for now.
Also, I personally felt that the Chase should be scraped altogether. But I do like the idea of the wild card slots as it will also put a greater emphasis on winning, at least in the early portion of the season. Besides, a driver who is 12th in the standings after 26 races probably doesn’t deserve a shot at the title anyway.
Do I feel that NASCAR made a perfect decision? No, because if I were in charge, I’d go back to awarding points like they did in 2003, before the Chase came along.
But all in all, I favor the changes. I feel that the system will be much easier for the fans to understand, and I also like the greater emphasis on winning with the bonus points and wild card Chase slots being handed out.
So now that we have all that out of the way, bring on Speedweeks!