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NASCAR Points Changes: One and Done In The Chase For The Sprint Cup

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 11:  (Back row from L-R) The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase contenders Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Crown Royal Ford, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kellogg's/Cheez-It Ford, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Ford, Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet,  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet, (Front row L-R) Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Caterpilliar Chevrolet,  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet,  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, pose following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 11, 2010 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Hank EptonCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2011

NASCAR got us excited.

It leaked last week that the sport was planning big changes for 2011.

There would be a new points structure.

There would be changes to the Chase.

There would be a new appetite to win races.

Then the news conference began.

On Wednesday night NASCAR CEO Brian France unveiled the system, which as advertised works off of a one point per position structure with 43 points going to the winner. The last place finisher gets one point.

It sounds great. It’s easy to figure out. Take where your guy finished, subtract it from 44 and you know how many points he got for the day. Add one if he led, two if he led the most.

Fans thought NASCAR officials would hear the cries to emphasize winning. They did.

They emphasized it a little.

"The fans have been clear, though, about one thing. They care about winning," NASCAR CEO Brian France proclaimed Wednesday night.

Under the old system a winner was guaranteed 190 points. Second place was at least 170. That’s 20 points difference.

Each top five position was worth incrementally five points more than the next one down, so a win added up to about four spots better.

Under the new system, a winner is guaranteed 47 points minimum, second is a minimum of 42.

Each spot is worth one point, so it’s five spots better. It's just one position difference.

The guys running up front tend to do it week in and week out. Every week it’s the usual suspects up front, taking points here, giving them up there.

This new system won’t change that.

Maybe this new system doesn’t emphasize winning, but it sure picks on the losers. If you have a DNF, you’re in trouble.

Under the old system if you finish dead last and the winner takes home maximum points, he outscored you 195 to 34. The last place guy got 17 percent of the winner’s total points.

Now, if the winner maximizes his points day, he outscores dead last 48 to one. He got just almost two percent of the winner’s take.

Finishing poorly now creates a monumental hill to climb. Consistency is king again in NASCAR.

The dreaded DNF, or did not finish, might be the death knell for a Chaser.

When the Chase starts, the conventional wisdom in the past was that you couldn’t win with more than one bad run. Now, that may be one too many.

For example, if Carl Edwards finished dead last in race one of the Chase, he’d get one point. If Kyle Busch maximized his day, he’d get 48.

There are just nine races to go.

Edwards would have to finish more than five spots better than Busch in every race from that point forward to catch him.

It's an epic task in the era where the guys who run up front tend to always run up front.

NASCAR didn’t adopt an elimination format as speculated, but it may be one and done.

The new system might not emphasize winning, but it sure did put a premium on not losing.

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