Should NASCAR change its points system?
by Stan Creekmore, NASCAR Editor

August 14, 2003

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I have pondered the many arguments about NASCAR might alter the current point system to ensure a tighter battle all year long.

The first thought that comes to mind questions whether it would be proper for NASCAR to change the point system, in the first place. The current system has worked for 30 years providing years of exciting point races with some runaway years mixed in between. All in all the system has worked with rarely a dispute as to whether the crowned champion truly deserved the title.

A Winston Cup season, soon to be Nextel Cup, is far more like the Tour de France than it is a round of play-off games at the end of a baseball or basketball season. The champion is the team, and I emphasize the word team, which excels best over the entire season. You win a few, you lose a few, and for as long as a team can produce consistent results the championship is theirs.

What appears to have spiked the annual call to change whatever hasnít been changed in the NASCAR arena is the supposed runaway by Matt Kenseth and the crew of the #17 DeWalt Ford; that and the sad departure from this earth of the architect of the point system, Bob Latford.

Latford, for all his wisdom, was not the sole originator of the current point system. Latford was one of three smart enough to put the system down in writing and take it to Bill France. It was a system carefully crafted to ensure the appearance at all of the major events by the major teams. No one race could be worth more in points and no one race could make or break a teamís season. The factors in play when Latford sat with his compatriots and worked out a new point system have changed. Latford saw the changes years ago and never quit working to refine the allocation of points.

Every year Latford would chat up the topic of the point system searching for new ideas. However, not once did he come up with a viable system that changed the eventual outcome of a point battle.

Now we have the CEO of NASCAR, Bill France, saying the system needs changing. No longer are the cries for change the howling of a mob-mentality media stoked by the self-serving competitors. France has told the good folks at USA Today that he has an idea that could spice up the point system in 2004. He has also said that the current system isnít broke.

With Franceís comments, the question has changed from why, to when, to how the point system will be changed.

There are many thoughts about which changes to make, from increasing the differential between first and second to awarding points based on qualifying. Just remember no matter what NASCAR does to alter the point system, not everyone will be pleased and the system will not be foolproof.

The most talked about changes include awarding points based on qualifying and awarding the same amount of points from a certain position down.

The problem with awarding points for qualifying could be the issue of engine changes. Is it fair to give the person who qualifies on the pole five bonus points and then have the car start last because of an engine change? The current engine rules would allow a driver to win the pole, but because the team changed engines prior to qualifying the car would start last in the race.

The same question applies to any driver/car owner awarded points based on qualifying.

It certainly is not Matt Kensethís fault that he has only won one race this season while racking up 17 top ten finishes. It isnít Kensethís fault that his competition has been plagued with bad luck. Sterling Marlin led the points chase last season with a single win.

NASCAR shouldnít change things just because a majority of the media has jumped all over the notion change is needed. Given the helm, the media would have killed the sport a long time ago. I say let the skipper, who has steered a boat that has grown from a dinghy to a battleship, do what he thinks is best..

The author can be contacted stanc@autoracing1.com

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