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NASCAR Rolls Out Its New Point-Paying System

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 26 2011

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France announced changes to the points system Wednesday in Charlotte. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Charlotte, N.C. – NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France announced a series of rule changes Wednesday aimed at simplifying the points system, giving drivers more incentive to race for wins and adding entertainment value to each of the stock car organization’s three traveling professional series.

“Everyone is looking to make sure that they’re delivering the right championship format, the right regular season that meets the times of today,’’ France said.  “So I suspect that is an ongoing process. Some will make big changes, some will make big changes that you think are small. That is the nature of big-time sports, to get it right and make sure that we have the right approach at any given time period.

“Auto racing in general has always had a sort of unique system to their sport,’’ France noted. “We just thought this was the perfect time, no matter what you do with the Chase (for the Sprint Cup Championship) or what you do with anything else, let’s simplify it so people can follow.’’

Beginning this season, points will be awarded to drivers in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series in an inverse order in which the drivers finish the race.

The winner of the 43-car race will be awarded 43 points. The driver who finishes last will be awarded one point. Race winners will also get three bonus points, while the driver who leads the most laps will receive one bonus points and every other driver who leads at least one lap will get one point.

Under the points system that has been in effect since 1975, the winner received 185 points and 43rd place earned 34 points. Leading a lap was worth five points, with another five points awarded to the driver who led the most laps.

Also changed will be the season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Twelve drivers will still be eligible to race for the title, but the way the championship field is determined was altered.

In 2011, the top 10 drivers will get automatic berths in the 10-race playoff. Two more “wild card’’ spots will go to drivers who win the most races but are not in the top 10 in points.

For Chase seeding purposes, each victory by the top 10 drivers is worth three points in the playoff. The two drivers who qualify for winning the most races will not get seeding points.

If no driver outside the top 10 wins a race, or if there is a tie for most wins by more than two drivers, the remaining two spots in the Chase will be filled on points, so, there will be 12 drivers in the playoff no matter what.

“Winning ought to be more important,’’ France said. “We have to be careful because there’s still 43 teams out there and you can’t expect a great season to just be measured on wins alone. So it’s a fine line between balancing a win structure or any other season. The idea is to focus, to motivate drivers to win or take chances, etc.  If they have somebody win five in a row, or two or three, a rain situation or some luck of the draw might alter the championship in a way that wouldn’t be proportionate.

“You’re seeing us take steps toward the winning portion of our rules package and procedures.’’

France also announced that qualifying for Cup and Nationwide would be changed to the format used last season in trucks, with the qualifying order based upon slowest to fastest speeds in practice. He also confirmed that drivers will now have to designate only one series in which they can race for a championship.

During a question and answer session that followed the announcements, one questioner rankled NASCAR president Mike Helton, asking if there weren’t more pressing issues to deal with than changing a points system that had been in place and apparently working well for more than 30 years.

“The fundamentals of what we do are still the same. It’s race cars on race tracks,’’ Helton said in defending the rule changes. “Everybody in every form of entertainment, every form of sports has to keep working on elements to stay relevant and to grow and to maintain its opportunity against a changing market place, or a changing environment or a changing generation.

“When you asked about a moving target, everything we’ve got is a moving target. 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 the experience we’ve got, we’re going to make adaptations so that we make the sport better.

“We don’t ignore a change or make a change just for the sake of ignoring it or making it,’’ Helton continued. “We do things when we do it for the betterment of our entire community. The changes we’ve talked about today. It’s a big deal to go from 43 to 1, one point for position, based on the fact that for so long we’ve had the points standings that we’ve got. … Our goal was that this change was to give the fan an opportunity, whether that fan is five years old of 85 years old, to sit in the grandstand without technology or anything … and being able to look at the race track and in their mind understand that one position on that track is worth one point. And then we think they’ve got an opportunity to get more engaged in that race.”

The changes were unveiled during the annual NASCAR Media Tour which is sponsored by Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A summary of competitive enhancements announced Wednesday:

Pick a Series – Drivers in all three national series now must select the series where they’ll compete for a driver championship. Drivers still may compete in multiple series and help their teams win owner titles in series where they’re not competing for a driver title. The move helps spotlight young talent in the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

New Qualifying Procedure – The qualifying order will be set based upon slowest to fastest practice speeds.

Inclement Weather Qualifying – If bad weather cancels qualifying, the final starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds. The same rule book procedures will be used to determine eligibility to start a race. If weather cancels practice sessions, then the starting lineup will be set by points, per the rule book.

Tire Rules Revision – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams now are allowed five sets of tires for practice and qualifying instead of six. They must return four of those sets to Goodyear in order to receive their race allotment, and may keep one set of practice/qualifying tires. Tire allotments for race weekends will vary according to historical performance data.

Closed Loop Fueling System – Introduced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, this goes into effect for all three national series in 2011. It combines a more efficient fueling system with the elimination of the catch-can man, considered the most “vulnerable” pit-crew member. Teams now will use six, rather than seven, over-the-wall pit-crew members.

Evolution Of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Car – NASCAR continues to work with the manufacturers and teams to enhance the look of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car. The cars have new fronts this season and the body makeover will continue to help appeal to fans and aid manufacturer identity.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 26 2011
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