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New Era of NASCAR:
NASCAR Point System Gets Overhauled
February 6, 2011

NASCAR announced on February 2 the new point system for 2011. It is the first major change since the 1970s. In the past 35 to 40 years the point difference from first to last has been about 140 points. So, winning a few races really could help you rebound and teams that consistently finished in the top ten would be well off in the championship race. For 2011, the point difference from first to last is only 42. Now, you'd think that would be easier because you will lose less with a bad day, but conversely, rebounding from a bad day will be tougher as you can't gain that many points on all of the teams you lost out to as quickly. NASCAR has 43 teams and that mean there are 42 different degrees of losing and the sooner you drop out of the race, the more teams you have to gain the points back from in the races to follow.

Position 2011 2010   Position 2011 2010   Position 2011 2010
1
43
185
16
28
115
31
13
70
2
42
170
17
27
112
32
12
67
3
41
165
18
26
109
33
11
64
4
40
160
19
25
106
34
10
61
5
39
155
20
24
103
35
9
58
6
38
150
21
23
100
36
8
55
7
37
146
22
22
97
37
7
52
8
36
142
23
21
94
38
6
49
9
35
138
24
20
91
39
5
46
10
34
134
25
19
88
40
4
43
11
33
130
26
18
85
41
3
40
12
32
127
27
17
82
42
2
37
13
31
124
28
16
79
43
1
34
14
30
121
29
15
76
15
29
118
30
14
73
Bonus Points:
1 point for leading a lap
1 point for leading the most laps
3 Chase seeding points for winning (Except for the 2 wild card chase teams)
The New Points. The points in 2010 for the winner was 185 points and it dropped to last place with 34 points. The new points for 2011 starts with 43 points for the winner and drops 1 point for each position down to 1 point for the 43rd place finisher. In 2010, the bonus points for leading a lap was 5. There was also a 5 point bonus for leading the most laps in a race. In 2011, the bonus points for leading a lap is 1 point and also 1 point for leading the most laps. In 2010, the seeding for the Chase was 10 points per victory. In 2011, there will be three points per victory to set the seeding for the Chase. However, the two wild card Chase teams will not get the three points for each win and will remain seeded 11th and 12th.

The wild card Chase teams will be the two teams with the most victories in that are in 11th to 20th in the points after 26 races. If there is a tie between teams for victories there is a system in place to break the tie. There was no real mention to what that system is, but I suspect that points will be the first tie breaker with top fives, top tens, etc. being the system.

The Reason. NASCAR says the reason for the change in the point system is to simplify things and make it easier for fans, competitors and the industry to understand. Now, yes, 43 points fo the winner, 1 point for the last place team with 43 cars in a race sounds simplier. It should be easy to follow and know how many points everybody is getting, but as I eluded to earlier a bad day will be an even more so of a bad day than in past seasons.

Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, seems to think that winning and consistency will still be rewarded under the new point system.

"The fans tell us that winning matters the most with them, so we're combining the tradition of consistency in our sport with the excitement that comes along with winning," France said. "This makes every race count leading into the 26th race of the season at Richmond, when we set the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup."

The Real Reason. So, what is the real reason for the point system change. Jimmie Johnson has won the championship five years in a row. NASCAR wants a different champion this year and I'll laugh all winter long next year if this does not work.

However, I have applied the new point system to the results of 2010 and included them in the points table below. Notice that the only change to the Chase teams is that Greg Biffle does not make the Chase and Jamie McMurray does. However, the order of the teams changes in a big way. Jimmie Johnson would not have been the champion and Matt Kenseth would have been the champion. Jimmie Johnson would drop to 11th in the points.

This brings me to another key point about the points. Noting first that the consequences of the points may change the strategy of the teams and this being the first year, there will be some varying strategies as they learn the consequences. That said, notice in the table below the number of wins, top 5s, top 10s, top 20s and DNFs in the totals in relation to the positions of the teams in each season. It appears to me that the points of 2010 reward the finishing positions in the standings better than the points of 2011. This is a result of just how much a bad day does have a magnified effect with the new points for 2011 compared to the points of 2010.

Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson led the Chase teams in the top 10s, but Harvick would finish 8th and Johnson 11th in the final standings using the 2011 points. Matt Kenseth, the champion using 2011 points, was winless in 2010 and Denny Hamlin would finish 5th with 8 wins in 2010 using the 2011 points.

Another item of concern is the penalty system. Note the footnote in the table below about Clint Bowyer's penalty. A pretty stiff penalty of 150 points that pretty much eliminated his championship hopes. However, 150 point penalty is pretty stiff, NASCAR has pretty much exhausted the magnitude of the penalties it could pass out with that one. As you can see in my percentage application of Clint's penalty in the table below, his penalty drops from 150 points to 34 points. Now, 34 is still pretty stiff under the new point system, but 34 sounds a lot better than 150. This will give NASCAR a new playing field to work in for levying penalties without seeming so harsh to the fans.

Conclusion. The late, Big Bill France Sr., was a smart guy and throwing away his point system that rewarded the accomplishments of the teams may not be what the sport needs. However, the true test will be the season we are about to begin and time will tell.

 
2011
Pos
2011 Point
System
2010
Pos
Driver
Points Bonus
Points
Starts Poles Wins Top 5 Top 10 Top 20 DNF Races
Led
Most
Laps Led
11
2,162
1
Jimmie Johnson
6,622
155
36
3
6
17
23
26
4
24
7
5
2,214
2
Denny Hamlin
6,583
125
36
2
8
14
18
28
2
20
5
8
2,200
3
Kevin Harvick
6,581
90
36
2
3
16
26
33
1
16
2
3
2,222
4
Carl Edwards
6,393
70
36
3
2
9
19
31
2
13
1
1
2,240
5
Matt Kenseth
6,294
65
36
0
0
6
15
32
0
13
0
2,214
6
Greg Biffle
6,247
70
36
0
2
9
19
25
3
12
2
7
2,201
7
Tony Stewart
6,221
110
36
2
2
9
17
23
1
20
2
2
2,228
8
Kyle Busch
6,182
115
36
2
3
10
18
26
3
19
4
12
2,147
9
Jeff Gordon
6,176
115
36
1
0
11
17
27
4
20
3
6
2,214*
10
Clint Bowyer
6,155
80
36
0
2
7
18
26
4
15
1
4
2,216
11
Kurt Busch
6,142
95
36
2
2
9
17
24
2
17
2
10
2,169
12
Jeff Burton
6,033
95
36
0
0
6
15
27
2
17
2
9 2,181 14
Jamie McMurray
4,325 75 36 4 3 9 12 24 3 15 0
* Clint Bowyer penalty at New Hampshire was about 77% of the points earned and the same percentage was removed from his 45 points earned, which translates to a 34 point penalty and brings his point total to 2214.



 
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