NASCAR Sprint Cup 2011: New Points System Working Just Fine Thus Far

Jim FolsomContributorMarch 30, 2011

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 27:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, makes a pit stop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 27, 2011 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Five races into the 2011 season, we can now get a little glimpse of what the new points system is going to look like down the road. Granted, there is a long way to go before we get to the Chase, but looking at the standings so far, it is a bit interesting.

The most interesting aspect of the new Chase requirements is that the Top Ten are locked in, but spots 11 and 12 go to the driver with the most wins, provided he is in the Top 20 in points.

Right now, the 12th spot is occupied by Dale Earnhardt Jr., but if the Chase started this week, he would not make it.

16th-placed Jeff Gordon would make it based on him winning a race. I wonder how Steve Letarte would feel about that?

Other than that, it looks like business as usual.

Carl Edwards leads the points. He has one win, three Top Five wins and four Top 10s in five races so far.

Following him are Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch in second and third place. Newman has three Top Fives and four Top 10s while Busch has one Top Five and four Top 10 finishes.

Kyle Busch is one point behind his brother in fourth place. He has one win, three Top Fives and four Top 10s. Jimmie Johnson comes in at fifth just three points behind Kyle with three Top Fives.

A couple of surprises thus far would be Paul Menard and Juan Pablo Montoya. Menard currently sits in the seventh spot while Montoya is in eighth. Both have a top five so far. Menard has two Top 10s and Montoya has three.

The next 21 weeks should be very interesting.

There will be a lot of changes based on which drivers can stay in the Top Ten, which are winning races despite not being able to break the Top Ten, and so forth.

If Gordon were to keep going like he is, with one win in every five starts with the other four being worse finishes, by the time all the bonus points for winning are added up at the start of the Chase, he could actually take the lead. Wouldn't that be a great advertisement for NASCAR on the evils of "points racing"?

By the time it is all said and done, though, the eventual winner will still be the one who does the best during the last 10 races. My guess is that will still be the number 48.