Points change – Good or Not?

By Shaun Burke

When Brian France made the announcement we were all expecting, I was ready to jump on here and write a story about how NASCAR missed a great opportunity to make drastic changes in the points structure. My idea was to make positions 30-43 the same, make first place points 15-25% more than second and do away with the top 35 rule. These were the changes I was hoping for but realistically not expecting.
In 2011, Position 43 will be worth 1 point and position 1 will be worth 43 with the winner also receiving 3 bonus points. Each driver that leads a lap will receive 1 bonus point and the driver leading the most laps will receive an additional bonus point. After much deliberation, I now realize that maybe Brian France was right!
Based on 2010 finishing order, the only change in the top 12 would be a swap between Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. Every other position would have stayed the same. The final standings would have been a bit closer with Denny Hamlin finishing second by 5 points to Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick would have been third, 7 points out of the lead. Of course, Jamie McMurray would be in the chase and Clint Bowyer would be out based on McMurray’s win total.
The significant changes occur around 35th in standings. Due to the structure of the new points, average finishes are rewarded more and bad finishes are substantially punished. In the old points system, the difference between 35th and 43rd on a given race week was 27 points (assuming no bonus points) or 79% more than last position. With the new system, the difference between 35th and 43rd is 9 points (assuming no bonus points). That is a staggering 900%! What this means is a driver would have to finish 43rd in nine races to pass the driver who finished 35th in one. In the old system, you could finish 43rd in two races and pass the driver who finished 35th in one.
This is the part of the new points system I am most excited about. While it will not encourage drivers to “go for broke” for a while, it should promote some good solid racing in the middle of the pack. Each position you pick up in a race is an entire race’s points on the last place driver!
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will calculate the top 10-12 drivers using the new points system and the new chase procedures. While I know drivers would race differently if the points system had been in place, it is a good way of showing what impact (or lack thereof) the now points system will have.

Actual 2010 Points
1    Jimmie Johnson    6,622
2    Denny Hamlin        -39
3    Kevin Harvick        -41
4    Carl Edwards        -229
5    Matt Kenseth        -328
6    Greg Biffle        -375
7    Tony Stewart        -401
8    Kyle Busch        -440
9    Jeff Gordon        -446
10    Clint Bowyer        -467
11    Kurt Busch        -480
12    Jeff Burton        -589

 2010 – Based on “New” Points
1    Jimmie Johnson    2,403
2    Denny Hamlin        -5
3    Kevin Harvick        -7
4    Carl Edwards        -63
5    Matt Kenseth        -89
6    Jamie McMurray    -94
7    Greg Biffle        -110
8    Tony Stewart        -113
9    Jeff Gordon        -124
10    Kyle Busch        -127
11    Kurt Busch        -132
12    Jeff Burton        -171