SBD/January 19, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR Confirms It Is Considering Adopting Simpler 43-1 Points System

NASCAR could announce decision on new points system next week
NASCAR Managing Dir of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston yesterday said that the sanctioning body "hadn't finalized its championship format" for the '11 season, but he indicated that the 43-1 plan tying points to finishing positions is "being considered," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Poston: "It's a way to simplify the system. Some longtime fans still have confusion about how the current point system works." While the Chase for the Sprint Cup "delivered its closest three-way finish last season," NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France "had floated the idea of tweaking it since the summer and NASCAR was considering adding more weight to wins." A decision on the points system "could be announced when France addresses the news media Jan. 26" (USA TODAY, 1/19). Several NASCAR officials who spoke on terms of anonymity indicated that they were "looking for two elements in whatever point system ultimately gets adopted: 1) It had to be easy for fans to understand; and 2) It had to create the greatest possibility of a close championship finish." That ideally would include "multiple drivers heading into the season finale with legitimate chances to win the Sprint Cup title." SPEEDTV.com's Tom Jensen cited NASCAR sources as saying that the 43-1 points system "was the one that in computer tests and simulations repeatedly created the closest finishes at the end of the year" (SPEEDTV.com, 1/18).

SO EASY A CAVEMAN CAN DO IT? Fox NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds notes the "talk right now is about a much simpler points system," and it is "so simple that you can explain it to someone in 15 seconds or less." McReynolds: "As a broadcaster for the past 10 years, it has been incredibly hard to explain the current points system to the casual fan. Actually, I doubt any of us have done a very good job because it's so hard to explain. So I am excited to see what is coming down the pike" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/19). ESPN's Rusty Wallace said, "My initial take is that this is a real good thing. A lot of the race fans I've talked to think that the points system right now is really confusing to them. ... This has been kicked around for a long time, and ... I like simplifying everything and if you got 43 cars in the field, it makes sense to give ... the winner of the race 43 points and last place one point" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/18). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said NASCAR changing the points system "makes all the sense in the world." Paige: "If you're consistent during the course of the entire season you're going to have a better chance overall at the end" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/18). SCENEDAILY.com's Bob Pockrass wrote the proposed changes to the points system are a "step in the right direction." But NASCAR "should take this opportunity to put more emphasis on winning and make riding around in a damaged car less important." Pockrass: "Here's an idea: Give the winner 53 points. Second gets 43 points, and the rest get one fewer point per position through 29th place. Give the 30th- through 36th-place finishers 15 points and 37th-43rd 14. Award a bonus point to whoever leads the most laps and a bonus point if a driver completes 90 percent of the laps. That means the maximum number of points a driver can earn in a race is 55 -- at least nine more than second place. That gives the winner a significant advantage under the point-per-position system, putting a bigger emphasis on winning" (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/18).

WINNING IS EVERYTHING: ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote, "Any change in the current NASCAR points system should emphasize winning. If the reports on the possible changes are true, the new plan only goes halfway to fixing the problem." The overall points change for each race "would not emphasize winning," which would "increase the problem of points racing that has plagued NASCAR for years." Under the new plan, the "incentive to win is diminished because it doesn't bring enough of a reward." Blount: "If this is the plan, it's half good and half bad. ... Making even less of a difference between winning and finishing second is a step backward" (ESPN.com, 1/18). In Michigan, Steve Kaminski wrote the "potential new system is flawed, so let's hope that France reconsiders it before it is implemented." Kaminski: "First, it doesn't award any bonus points for a driver who wins a race. Plus, NASCAR's point system always favored consistency over winning, and this new idea would only make it even worse" (MLIVE.com, 1/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Pistone wrote of the 43-1 formula, "At first glance maybe that's not such a bad thing. Shrinking the points pool will allow fans to pretty easily figure out how many the guy who takes the checkered flag earned and by simple math what the tenth place finisher is awarded as well. It appears that in reality the system will still be based on consistency and that really just a smaller set of numbers will be instituted and in turn provide a relatively easy way for fans to follow along." But Pistone added, "My bigger question is how will it impact NASCAR's overall fan base which has grown increasingly tired of the many moves the sport has made since 2004? Does this latest idea run the risk of running off even more fans rather than attract the new ones the sport so desperately seeks?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/18).

BIGGER PROBLEMS THAN POINTS: SI.com's Tom Bowles wrote, "In simplifying the system, it seems NASCAR would be making a ploy to push its attractiveness toward the 18-34 crowd, a generation it's been losing for several years now. But in conversations with fans and people in the garage, not once in five years have I heard someone say NASCAR's biggest problem is the point system is too complicated." NASCAR "needs to do something aggressive to bring a 'Boys, Have At It' mentality from the drop of the green to the drop of the checkered flag." Bowles: "That, more than anything, is what I see missing from this new point system proposal" (SI.com, 1/18).
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