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NASCAR chief announces changes

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

NASCAR officials hope fans will get the point of the a scoring system.

Chairman Brian France unveiled a new, simplified scoring system Wednesday night for all three of its national series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks – as well as alterations to the Chase format that determines the Cup championship.

“The most important reason is simplicity,” France said during a news conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “Many of our most loyal fans don’t fully understand the points system we have used to date.

“It’s comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow.”

Under the new system, 43 points will be awarded to the driver who finishes first in a race and 42 points will go to second place. The points will drop with each finishing position until the last-place driver (43rd place) will receive one point.

In addition, three extra points will be awarded for a win, one extra point for leading a lap and one extra point for leading the most laps.

The most a driver can earn in a race will be 48 points. Coincidentally, that’s also the car number of Jimmie Johnson, who has won the last five Cup championships.

The Chase format will remain largely the same, but now the top-10 drivers in the standings after 26 races will qualify for the final 10 races. The next two drivers with the most wins – as long as they are in the top 20 in points – will join them in the 12-driver Chase field.

Ties would be broken by points position. If no one past the 10th position in points has won, the last two spots in the Chase would go to the drivers 11th and 12th in points.

Drivers are still to be seeded for the Chase start based on number of wins (three points for each victory). However, the two who make the Chase based on wins only would always be seeded 11th and 12th.

Since last summer, France has talked about the possibility of changes to the Chase format, hoping to capture more “Game 7 moments.” There was also a lot of talk of putting more significance on winning, although that doesn’t appear to have been a priority.

“We didn’t make a fundamental change in wins or anything else because there’s always a balance,” France said. “We like that balance.”

NASCAR has changed its Chase format several times since it was implemented in 2004. Among the changes: expanding the field from 10 to 12 drivers and awarding bonus points for wins, which were then used to seed drivers to start the Chase.

The points system had remained relatively stable since, as the legend holds, it was developed and outlined on a paper napkin at a bar in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1974.

That system awarded 175 points to the winner and decreased in increments of five points, and then three points, to 34 for last place. Five points were awarded for leading a lap and five additional points given to the driver who led the most laps. Under that system the most points a driver could earn in a race was 195.

Initial reaction to the new system was positive.

“With the new points system, drivers are encouraged to win races in order to be in a position to win the championship,” said Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage.

Added Ed Clark of Atlanta Motor Speedway: “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.”

Brian Vickers provided a driver response.

“The difference is easy. The 43-to- one points is explainable to anyone by a text and not a long e-mail,” he said. “It’s all nice, but when does Daytona start again? I’m ready to race.”

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