SBD/January 18, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR Reportedly Considering Scrapping Current Points System

NASCAR reportedly shying away from wholesale changes to Chase format
NASCAR is "considering scrapping the points system it has used since 1975 in favor of a simpler method that awards points per finishing position," according to a source cited by Jenna Fryer of the AP. NASCAR "wants to go to a scoring system that would award 43 points to the race winner, and one point less for each ensuing position down to one point for the 43rd-place finisher." The current scoring method "gives 175 points to the winner, and decreases in increments of five points and then three points down to 34 points for the last-place finisher." Five-point bonuses are "awarded for leading a lap, and to the driver who leads the most laps." Officials are "still debating how to award bonuses under a straight points system, and ideas being considered are for anywhere from one to three points being given to lap leaders and race winners." The points system overhaul is "one of a handful of changes NASCAR is considering implementing before the season begins next month," but NASCAR is "shying away from wholesale changes to its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format." Teams "have been told NASCAR is leaning toward keeping it a 12-driver field, with one caveat: The top 10 drivers following the 26th race of the season would qualify for the Chase, while the remaining two spots would go to the drivers with the most wins who are not already eligible for the Chase." NASCAR officials "have also told teams they aren't leaning toward adding eliminations." Fryer noted "because the system seemingly worked as the Chase played out last season, sweeping changes did not seem necessary" (AP, 1/17).

TOSSING IDEAS AROUND: NASCAR Managing Dir of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston last night said that officials have "bounced several new competition ideas around to drivers and car owners in a recent series of town hall meetings." Poston: "NASCAR executives, including chairman and CEO Brian France, are in the process of meeting with drivers and team owners. In those meetings we have discussed a number of ideas for potential changes for the coming season, none of which have been finalized at this point." In Daytona Beach, Godwin Kelly reports NASCAR President Mike Helton and VP/Competition Robin Pemberton "will address 2011 rule changes in a news conference scheduled Friday at Daytona International Speedway." Fox' Darrel Waltrip said that "changing the points would have little effect on who wins the championship." Waltrip: "If you run the numbers, I guarantee you it comes out the same. It's all perception. I've said all along, when we can't explain it, so the people at home can understand it, it needs to be addressed" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 1/18). In Orlando, George Diaz wrote, "The constant shifting of the bulls eye seems to reflect a sense of urgency -- dare we say desperate -- for a sport looking to regain its mojo with the masses" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 1/17).

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: In Philadelphia, Bill Fleischman notes TV officials are "trying to figure out how to get viewers back watching Sprint Cup races." There is a "theory that moving the Chase from ABC to ESPN hurt the ratings," as "over-the-air networks like ABC are in 116 million households whereas ESPN reaches nearly 100 million homes." But ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Julie Sobieski said, "We really don't believe the move from ABC to ESPN is much of a factor. The (racing) competition is as good as it's been. The ratings for NASCAR have been on the decline now for several years across the (network) partners. It takes time to turn trends around." Sobieski added ESPN is encouraged because the "time spent viewing (Chase races) was up double digits." Speed President Hunter Nickell said ratings for NASCAR programs on Speed are "largely a good story." But he added that there "has been an 'erosion' in viewing by men ages 18 to 34" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/18).
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