Welcome to the
2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Season. This season is shaping up to
be an exciting one with many twists and turns. Today, we
were given what could be the biggest twist of them all.
NASCAR Vice President of Communications, Jim Hunter
announced today that the governing body will go ahead with a
proposed change in the Nextel Cup point structure allowing
for a 10-race playoff for the top drivers in the 04 Nextel
Cup Series after the completion of 26 races which will be at
Richmond in the Chevy Rock N Roll 400.
All of the details have not been finalized, but a focal
piece of the puzzle was explained today as instead of just
the top-10 drivers going off into a playoff type format it
will be determined on a difference in points from first
place to the determined number that will be announced before
the beginning of the season. That number will be based upon
the last 28 years of the former point system and it will be
between 300 and 600 points, Hunter said today in an
interview with NASCAR.com.
He attributes his decision to forge ahead with the new point
structure with sagging ratings and races not selling out
their venues in the latter part of the 2003 Winston Cup
Season as Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 DeWalt Ford led
the point standings as much as over 400 points at one time
in the season which led for fans to lose interest as there
seemed no chance for any other driver to get ahead of
"There's just so much more for NASCAR to compete with in
that last third of the season that we don't have the rest of
the year," Hunter said.
"We're doing this to draw additional attention to our sport.
That's the bottom line." In addition to the restructure of
the point system in the final 10 races, there will be more
points awarded for winning races and possibly a special
point fund set up for the person who wins the most races in
"The balance of winning and consistency has sort of gotten
out of whack," Hunter said. "It seems that the consistency
factor plays more of a role than winning races. We need to
change the format.
But with change comes criticism. When the idea was
introduced after the 03 season, most drivers were against it
and fans were saying "if it aint broke then don't fix it."
With the announcement today the sentiment seemed to be
"I don't really want them to change the point system," Dale
Earnhardt Jr., driver of the number 8 Budweiser Chevrolet
said today during a press conference at preseason thunder.
"It was a good point system that awards the driver with the
best average finish." Jaime McMurray, driver of the #42
Havoline Dodge shared the same feeling.
"I think that starting over after 26 races is a bad idea,"
McMurray said. "It's not fair to the sponsors or the driver
that's 11th to 15th in the points that has a shot to get in
the top ten when that is what they try to do all year.
Other drivers like Dale Jarrett in the #88 UPS Ford say that
it will not change the focus of what they are trying to
accomplish week to week and that is to win races.
The fans are equally as disturbed about the change. This
writer went to a popular fan based site, and asked some of
the fans what their opinion of the points change was.
Jerry, a truck driver from Wisconsin felt that this could
end up being compared to the Bowl Championship Series in
college football, and lots of money lost due to lack of
interest in sponsorship for cars that don't make it into the
Julie from Tennessee and John from Missouri feel that
creating a playoff system will disenchant fans that support
their favorite driver that does not end up making it into
the top ten thus making attendance and viewership suffer.
And Irene from Maryland said, "Let the racers race and let
the points take care of themselves." Just as with any NASCAR
season beginning, there has to be a sense of suspense in
what the year may bring. With the inaugural Nextel Cup
series, there will be no difference. Whether you are for or
against the new point structure, at least for this season,
it's here to stay.
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