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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Points system much easier to follow, if not win

NASCAR is probably the only sport on the planet that not only alters its rules every year, but then changes them from week to week.

Since the season won’t even start until later next month, however, there’s plenty of time to cuss and discuss what could change between the first race at Daytona and the last race at Homestead. For now, the hot topics are the new simplified points system and the “wildcard” aspect of the Chase for the Championship.

Instead of the cluttered and bizarre old scoring format, the 43 drivers in a Sprint Cup field will be awarded from 1 through 43 points – 1 for a last place finish and 43 for a win.

The 43 can grow as large as 48 based on bonus points for the victory (3), leading a lap (1) and most laps led (1).

As for the Chase, it’s still a 12-driver field but positions 11 and 12 will go to drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races as long as they aren’t already in the Top 10 and are ranked in the Top 20 in points.

“The fans tell us that winning matters the most with them, so we’re combining the tradition of consistency in our sport with the excitement that comes along with winning,” NASCAR CEO Brian France said last week. “This makes every race count leading into the 26th race of the season at Richmond, when we set the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.”

If winning matters most to the fans, shouldn’t a race winner get more than 48 points?

As convoluted as the old system was, at least the person who grabbed the checker got a decent bonus for winning – the victor received 185 points and the second-place finisher got 170.

That kind of cushion is no longer possible.

The best a driver who winds up in victory lane can do is get six more points than the runner-up.

The math might be simpler, but unless I’m missing something winning is even less rewarding under the new format.

Plus, the old system spaced out the allocation of points more fairly.

After first and second the difference was five-point increments down to sixth place. After that, the difference was four points from seventh to 11th, and then three points difference the rest of the way.

Drivers received five points for leading a lap and five more for leading the most laps.

None of this is going to cause me to toss and turn at night, but knowing that a first place finish is, at best, only worth 24 more points than a 20th place run doesn’t seem right.

As for the wildcard aspect of the Chase ... whatever.

I’ve never been enamored with the gimmick anyway. If they want to have a real “playoff,” hold an elimination race at Daytona at the end of the season and crown a champion there.

Otherwise, give the title to the person with the most points after 36 races, based on the points he earned through 36 races.

Contact Scott Adamson of the Anderson Independent-Mail in Anderson, S.C., at adamsonj@indpendentmail.com.