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Woody: Points For Poles Is Preposterous

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 7 2009
Points for winning a pole? Larry Woody thinks not.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Points for winning a pole? Larry Woody thinks not. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)


By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Awarding a driver points for winning a pole makes about as much sense as awarding a football team points for field goals made by its kicker during pre-game warm-ups.

Winning a pole is not related to winning the race – no how, no way – so why on earth should it count toward deciding the championship?

What’s next – awarding points to the driver with the best paint job?

That’s really all the pole is – a pretty bauble for the sponsors.

How important is winning the pole? During qualifying rainouts, there is no pole winner. They simply line ‘em up based on the point standings. That’s how insignificant the pole is.

Some claim that winning the pole gives a team bragging rights to having the fastest car on the track. So what? Somebody drove around the track really fast for one lap. Big deal. Brag away.

Going fast for one lap is not racing. Especially when there’s nobody else on the track. Who’d he race, his shadow?

If they really want to gimmick things up, let’s award points to the driver who gets to the track first on race day. At least he has to negotiate some fierce traffic.

Points-for-poles proponents say getting to start first boosts team morale and rewards the mechanics for all their hard work.

Fine. So give the mechanics a trophy. Let them wave their lug wrenches, thank the boys back at the shop, and spray champagne. But don’t award the driver bonus points just because he was bequeathed a powerful motor.

If team morale is so low that it takes winning a pole to get them ready to race, that team’s in trouble. I’d think just the opposite would be true: how’s morale when the team with the fastest car loses the race?

That happens more often than not. In truth, winning from the pole is something of a rarity.

On the other hand, it’s not all that uncommon for a driver to start last or close to it, and work his way up to first.

In other words, where a driver starts is meaningless.

Starting out front theoretically could help a driver avoid an early-race pileup, but not necessarily. If the pole-sitter misses a gear or stumbles at the start, he gets run over.

The argument could be made that the driver at the back has more control over his early-race destiny because he can bide his time and wait for the up-front snarl to sort itself out.

I liked the approach of the late Dale Earnhardt: who cares where you start? It’s where you finish that matters.

Earnhardt was never impressed by poles; he won only 22 in his 676 career starts. Yet he won 76 races and captured seven championships.

Like he said, it’s not where you start …

I’ve never understood why teams put so much effort into qualifying, especially the top 35 that have starting spots locked in. Seems they’d be better served in getting their cars race-ready instead of pole-ready.

(If NASCAR really wanted to put some meaning into qualifying it would do away with all freebies and simply start the fastest 43 cars. No provisionals, no automatics, no lock-ins. If the 44th-fastest qualifier happened to be named Earnhardt or Gordon, tough – he goes home and tries again next week.)

All of this pole conservation was started when the Indy Car Series decided to award its drivers a point for a pole. Nothing against the IRL, understand, but if you weigh its ratings against NASCAR’s I’m not sure NASCAR should be in a rush to steal its ideas.

There’s no question that NASCAR needs to do something to spice up the show, and there are some good ideas floating around out there.

But awarding pole points is not one of them. The pole winner is a one-lap wonder who has earned congratulations and a trophy, but not points toward the championship.

Slam-dunks during warm-ups don’t count. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 7 2009