NASCAR Sprint Cup: Why the New Chase Format Isn't Fair To Drivers

Melissa Bauer-Herzog@mbauerherzogCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2011

The 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup Drivers
The 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup DriversRusty Jarrett/Getty Images

The 2011 NASCAR season is almost here and it comes as no surprise that NASCAR has changed the points and chase format just in time for the Daytona 500.

As it has been discussed during the offseason, the points have gone to an easy-to-understand format with 48 points being the most you can earn (already nicknamed the “Jimmie”).  43 points will be granted to the first place driver with the last place driver earning one point.

Three extra points will be awarded for the win, taking the total for the winner up to 46 with one point awarded for most laps led and another given for leading a lap.  Points for most laps led and leading a lap can go to any driver on the track. 

The Chase has also been changed with the 11 and 12 positions being the drivers outside the top ten with the most wins.  If the top ten drivers win all the races during the “regular season,” the bottom two will be decided by points.

"There will always be 12 drivers," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "If all of the winners are in the top 10, we'll fill 11 and 12 by points. There is always going to be 12; there wouldn't be any more than 12. If there are five drivers that, in theory, are tied for the opportunity to get 11 and 12, then we would break that tie via the rule book to fill the 11th and 12th spots."

While I agree with the simplification of the points system, especially while we are trying to bring in new fans, I do not agree with the choosing of the 11 and 12 positions in points.

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Yes, Jamie McMurray was ripped off last year when he won two of the biggest races of the year and finished second in some others, but he wouldn’t have affected the Chase since he wasn’t consistent enough to grab a top 12 spot in points.

Races like the Daytona 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 should be rated on a higher point scale because they are the biggest races in our sport. However, just because a driver won three races without consistently finishing at the top of the pack most of the time, they should be given an automatic berth to run at the Championship.

A scenario that is a weakness towards this new rule is if a road course specialist wins both the road courses but can’t finish anywhere on oval courses (if they even race on them).  If the driver won the most races of all the others outside of the Chase, they automatically get into the championship race, booting out someone that may not have won a race but was in the top ten almost every week.

In the above scenario, it is hurting the Chase by having one of those types of drivers in it when his spot could be taken by a real contender.  I vote that the top twelve make the Chase as those are the guys that were constant enough to stay at the top of the standings, which is by no means easy on the Sprint Cup circuit.

The new Chase format does have benefits for guys like Jamie McMurray, who did win some of the biggest races of the year, but it punishes the guys that were consistent enough to stay in the top twelve in points and instead picks guys that may be placed lower but have a few wins.

While I don’t like the new system, I will watch it with interest this year to see if it is something that may work or if it is something NASCAR will change yet again next year.  Will the wild card drivers shock everyone and be in contention for the championship, or will they sink when racing with the best of the best?  Only time will tell.


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