Pedley: Sorry But I Am Not Yet Getting The Point
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Not far from the coffee pot in the infield media center at Daytona International Speedway about 10 years ago, the late Bob Latford sat at small, white table wasting his time.
He reiterated points, he borrowed a pen and a sheet of notebook paper and scribbled what appeared to be numbers, he gestured with his hands, he re-reiterated points.
After 20 minutes or so of this, he could obviously tell that despite the affirmative up-and-down nods of my head, there was no freakin’ way his explanation of the point system he had devised for NASCAR decades before was making a dent.
Before, during and after that session in futility I continued to struggle with the concept of the system by which NASCAR crowned champions. And I didn’t really feel that badly about it. It was complicated, foreign and defied logic.
My brother, an actual research physicist, would have trouble understanding that system.
So, it was with warm thoughts of the possibility of understanding the system – but sad thoughts about the passing of wonderful, patient Latford in 2003 – that I greeted news that a new point system was in the pipeline last year.
Finally, clarity was headed this a’way.
The new system uses smaller numbers when awarding points after races. And it uses a seemingly
logical inverse order of point paying where the winner of the 43-car event gets 43 points and the last-place driver gets one. Right?
Then there are the bonus points for leading laps and most laps and an altered resetting of points for the Chase and wild cards for that 10-race playoff.
But, there is some symmetry and, presumably, logic involved.
However, five races into the new system, I find myself retreating to my fallback plan when it comes to understanding the real-world implications of the system – wait until they hand out the stat sheets after New Hampshire in September to figure out who’s in and who’s out.
Inhibiting understanding of the new system is relativity. Is a 10-point lead right now big? Small? Comfortable? Panic-inducing.
Is Carl Edwards platinum as he prepares for Sunday’s Martinsville race with a 30-point lead over 11th-place Kasey Kahne?
Should 20th-place Greg Biffle launch into full scramble mode as he sits 38 points out of 10th place and Chase inclusion.
Should Jeff Burton – 25th in points and 54 points out of the Chase – start working toward 2012 if he doesn’t win at Martinsville?
Really. I’m asking.
The buoying factor in all of this is that apparently I am not alone in my failure to fully dope out the new system.
Jimmie Johnson, who has won five straight Sprint Cup championships, called the new system daunting. He said he, too, is struggling to get his “head around” it.
“When you’re 20 (points) out or something, you’re first reaction is that’s not bad; 20 out is the way I’ve always known it,” Johnson said. “A few spots, lead a lap, you’re golden. Now you look at it and say wait a second. One point to lead a lap, one point for a position, that’s 20 points and real tough to
make it up in a week. So it’s just trying to come to grips with how it works out. If you’re 20 down, you’re really a couple hundred out or something. So, it’s just getting used to that format. So, I guess the reaction between the two thoughts is whoa, I’m in trouble.”
Johnson is not a lonely figure in the garages when it comes to not fully grasping the new system and how it relates to reality of the moment. Others have confessed to not knowing where they stand vis a vis the ultimate goal of winning the 2011 championship.
Some are worried, some are not.
Tony Stewart – sixth in points, 17 behind leader Edwards and 13 points ahead of the first non-Chase driver – is not. He is adopting my time-tested method of doping out his relative position.
“I don’t even worry about it,” Stewart said Friday. “I look at where I am at and I go to the next race. Everybody wants to analyze it. Nobody is worrying about it but you guys (the media). You guys are the only ones that ask any questions about it. We don’t care.”
Well, fans may care and they pay the bills.
“It is what it is,” Stewart continued. “We know what it is to start with. It doesn’t matter whether we like it or dislike it. This is what we have got. I don’t think anybody has complaints. I don’t think anybody cares really right now. You go out and try to win races and get as many points each week as you can. It’s not…it doesn’t matter whether we tell we like it or dislike it. Nobody is going to change it, right? So why are we talking about it? It doesn’t matter.”
As time goes by, as familiarity takes hold, you’ve got to believe that the current point system will become easier to relate to and that somebody other than Stephen Hawking can understand it.
Then again, Latford’s system was almost 30 years old that day at Daytona when he finally asked, “Do you understand?” when he knew perfectly well I did not and never would.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.com Comments