After a full season with the new points system in action in 2011, it is apparent that the system is pretty good.
It's easy to understand, and contributed to an unprecedented tie atop the championship standings last season.
However, the system could still be improved significantly.
Most criticisms of the new points system claim that it punishes poor finishes too severely (finishes often due to factors entirely beyond a driver’s control). However, I don't have a problem with that objection.
Everyone plays under the same rules. If you blow an engine and finish last in one race, you can always hope that the points leader will do the same the next week. Finishing poorly has always led to a bad points day. What’s wrong with falling behind when finishing last?
If anything, ALL points should be eliminated for finishes below a certain position to make this a moot point entirely, as is the case in Formula One, in which it doesn't matter whether you finish last or fifth-to-last. And that's not what most fans care about, anyhow.
The more fundamental problem is that winning itself (the ultimate goal of NASCAR and any sport) isn’t rewarded enough.
And that is my primary problem with the current NASCAR points system: Winning is not rewarded enough. I have two additional objections to the current points system which I will also discuss: Qualifying is virtually meaningless, and therefore boring; and it makes no sense for a driver to receive a bonus point for leading a lap under caution.
My proposed point scoring system is simpler than either the pre-2011 system or the current system, and addresses each of these three problems.
Here’s my idea: Only the top 20 finishers receive points, from 20 points (winner) down to one point (20th place). The winner receives a three point bonus. Both the driver who leads the most laps and the pole winner receive a one-point bonus.
If a driver wins the pole and the race while leading the most laps, he can score a maximum of 25 points.
Problem No. 1: The current points system does not properly reward winning. When announcing the new points system early last year, Brian France acknowledged, “The fans have been clear about one thing: They care about winning.”
If that is true, then why is the maximum number of points (48) only 14.3 percent higher than the minimum number awarded to second place (42)?
Under the old system, the highest points finish (195) was actually 14.7 percent higher than the minimum number of points for second place (170). Thus, winning is not actually rewarded any more than it used to be.
Under my proposed system, a maximum points day (25) would be worth 25 percent more than second place (20). This would serve two purposes.
First, it would give drivers extra incentive to "go for the win," rather than being content to have a "good points day." The best points day ought to be sitting on the pole, winning the race and leading the most laps, and the difference in points should be enough to make that matter!
Second, it would allow drivers to make up ground in the points not by racking up top-10s in Matt Kensethian fashion, but by gunning for the win in a way that would make racing fans get up and out of their seats.
Want to see more of what Tony Stewart did in the 2011 Chase? Then this is the point system for you!
Problem No. 2: Qualifying is virtually meaningless, since there is no reward for winning the pole and races are long enough that it's possible to win from any starting position.
What do you think of my proposed points system?
Obviously, under my proposed system there would be a significant incentive to win the pole.
Drivers currently go out of their way to get a bonus point for leading a lap, and they'd approach qualifying seriously in order to gain a point in a way that would demonstrate actual ability.
It's worth pointing out that one point would be more meaningful in my system, worth 4 percent of the total for a maximum points day—one out of 25—as opposed to just 2.1 percent under the current system—one out of 48 points.
Problem No. 3: The bonus for leading a lap doesn't make sense. Why should a driver be rewarded for staying out a lap when the field is under caution?
Under my system, that oddity is taken away, while the meaningful accomplishment of leading the most laps (having the dominant car throughout the race) is retained.
There are a couple of additional advantages to my proposed points system.
The maximum number of points is 25, a nice round number, rather than 48 (can you say conspiracy theory?).
In addition, teams won't rush to put junked cars back on the track to log laps, getting in the way of the actual racing to pick up a few extra points when they have no hope of an actual decent finish.
Under my system, there would be no advantage to finishing, say, 32nd rather than 39th.
What do you think of my idea? Leave a comment to voice your opinion!
Follow Luke on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nascarfanumber1