SBD/January 27, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR Announces Simplified Points System For Upcoming Season

France (l) and Helton unveil simplified points system for all three series

NASCAR last night formally unveiled a simplified points system for all three of its series, which officials hope enables fans to calculate easily what drivers' results mean for season standings. The system will award the winning driver 43 points, the second place driver 42 points and drop with each finishing spot before awarding the last driver one point. NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France said, "The most important reason (for the change) is simplicity. ... All motorsports has complicated formulas to add up to tracking someone in the standings. This is a straightforward way to do that." The winner will receive three bonus points, drivers will receive one bonus point for leading a lap, and the driver that leads the most laps will also receive an extra bonus point. The maximum points a driver could get would be 48, which pundits noted is five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson’s car number. France also announced that NASCAR would tweak the qualification system for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Instead of filling the 12-car field with the top 12 drivers in points, NASCAR will field it with the top 10 drivers in points and two drivers in the top 20 with the most wins in a season. France said he expects the tweak to make early season wins count more and encourage drivers to go for late-season wins at tracks like Atlanta and Richmond. France and NASCAR President Mike Helton fielded a number of questions from the media regarding whether or not the points system put enough emphasis on winning. France said that winning had to be important, but that the points system could not be about winning alone. France: "There’s still 43 teams out there and you can’t expect a great season to be based on wins alone." Helton added, "We want to give the fan an opportunity, whether that fan is five years old or 85 years old, an opportunity to ... look at the race track and in their mind understand the fact that one position on that race track is worth one point. And then we think they’ve got a better opportunity to be more engaged in the race by being able to understand that."

TRACKING CHANGES: France rebuffed a question from the AP regarding what else NASCAR considered changing because "the list of things wrong with the sport is very, very long." France joked, "There’s a positive start to the season." He then said that the sanctioning body was satisfied with the level of racing competition and wanted to see television ratings and attendance improve. He added that NASCAR was setting itself up to "take the sport in a smart direction for many, many years." Responding to a question about why NASCAR continued to tweak its postseason format, Helton said, "The fundamentals of what we do is still the same. It’s race cars on race tracks. But everybody, including NASCAR, has to keep working on elements to stay relevant and to grow and to maintain its opportunity in a changing marketplace. ... Everything we’ve got is a moving target. It always has been. We’re always going to look at stuff that we think in our opinion, based on the input we get and the knowledge we’ve got and experience we’ve got, we’re going to make adaptations to it so we can make the sport better. ... We do things when we do it for the betterment of our entire community" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). ESPN.com's David Newton wrote, "The biggest question France and Helton had to address on Wednesday was why change the points system when fans have expressed more pressing concerns, such as shortening races, shortening the season and giving more points for wins, to name a few." France: "We definitely communicated with our fan council. It's intuitive. We have a points system that is hard to describe for ourselves. We were sitting around trying to articulate every portion of it. ... We were unable to do it." NASCAR "discussed the change individually with Sprint Cup organizations before making a final decision" (ESPN.com, 1/26).

IS WINNING EVERYTHING? USA TODAY's Nate Ryan writes, "The impact on the pursuit of the championship -- aside from stiffer punishment for poor finishes -- seems negligible." Rather than "place a greater emphasis on winning, which the sanctioning body has labeled a goal the last few years, the new system's primary objective is simplicity" (USA TODAY, 1/27). ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote, "Here's the summation of the new plan: It really doesn't change much at all. That's right. It's the same old lump of coal wrapped in a shiny new package. Just call it the old points system on a diet. The new plan has the same 'simple' problem: Not enough points for winning" (ESPN.com, 1/26). SCENEDAILY.com's Jeff Owens wrote, "NASCAR made some good moves Wednesday to liven up the Sprint Cup Series, enhance competition and make things easier for fans." But it "didn’t go far enough" on the "most important and most compelling aspect of racing -- winning" (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/26). CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Pistone writes under the header, "New NASCAR Rules Miss The Mark." Pistone: "The emphasis on winning that NASCAR has preached in recent months and years wasn't addressed at all" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/26). In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis writes NASCAR "has played it rather safe," though the new points system is "certainly better than the former formula" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 1/27).   

SIMPLE SOLUTION: Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark said, "NASCAR is to be saluted for their off-season work on the significant program changes. The new elements will keep the sport fresh and interesting for both long-time fans and new followers of the sport." Driver Brian Vickers: "The difference is easy. The 43-to-one points is explainable to anyone by a text and not a long e-mail" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/27). Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said, "Simple is always better. You're going to see drivers driving like their hair is on fire at the end of the race. You've got to give NASCAR credit because they're putting the emphasis on winning races" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/27). Driver Martin Truex Jr.: "It will be easier to follow for the fans, the television announcers and anyone involved in the sport" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/27). Driver Jeff Gordon: "It'll make it easier for the commentators to talk about and analyze for the championship battle" (ESPN.com, 1/26). Driver Jimmie Johnson said, "I don't think it is much different from what we have now. It theory, it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal" (SI.com, 1/26). Driver Tony Stewart said, "There's been too much emphasis on winning versus the fact that these teams have to work hard for 36 races, and under this format, we still have to win a championship by being good for 10 races. I don't think that side of it should change. I don't think there should be too much emphasis put on winning" (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/26). Team owner Richard Petty "likes that the governing body is simplifying the system," but he "doesn't like that three points will be awarded for a win, one lap led and one for the most laps led." Petty: "That has nothing to do with the race" (ESPN.com, 1/26). 

CALLS TO SHORTEN RACES: Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. yesterday said that he "applauds the changes that are coming to the Sprint Cup Series point standings, but that NASCAR has another adjustment it needs to make." Earnhardt "called again for a shortening of most of the Cup races." Hitting on a "theme others have addressed previously, he said he particularly would like to see the season's two 500-mile events at Pocono Raceway shortened." France responded to Earnhardt's comments, contending that "several races have been shortened already, including events that have shifted within the schedule." France also said that NASCAR "will be open to considering more such changes in the future -- but only to a point" (NASCAR.com, 1/26). Team owner Rick Hendrick: "I absolutely think the races ought to be shorter, and I think the season ought to be shorter." Hendrick: "It's just so long. If we had three more months off, I think the fans would be more eager to get back and watch it." However, Earnhardt said, "The financial rewards from having the season as it is are too great. It's almost as if each race is a limb that you can't amputate. It's too big a deal to shorten the season. There's tons of money involved and tons of livelihoods involved, and people's careers. ... I think in my lifetime we'll see shorter races across the board at 85 percent of the events, but never a shorter season" (AP, 1/26).

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