I have pondered the many arguments about NASCAR might alter the
current point system to ensure a tighter battle all year long.
The first thought that comes to mind questions whether it would be
proper for NASCAR to change the point system, in the first place.
The current system has worked for 30 years providing years of
exciting point races with some runaway years mixed in between. All
in all the system has worked with rarely a dispute as to whether the
crowned champion truly deserved the title.
A Winston Cup season, soon to be Nextel Cup, is far more like the
Tour de France than it is a round of play-off games at the end of a
baseball or basketball season. The champion is the team, and I
emphasize the word team, which excels best over the entire season.
You win a few, you lose a few, and for as long as a team can produce
consistent results the championship is theirs.
What appears to have spiked the annual call to change whatever
hasnít been changed in the NASCAR arena is the supposed runaway by
Matt Kenseth and the crew of the #17 DeWalt Ford; that and the sad
departure from this earth of the architect of the point system, Bob
Latford, for all his wisdom, was not the sole originator of the
current point system. Latford was one of three smart enough to put
the system down in writing and take it to Bill France. It was a
system carefully crafted to ensure the appearance at all of the
major events by the major teams. No one race could be worth more in
points and no one race could make or break a teamís season. The
factors in play when Latford sat with his compatriots and worked out
a new point system have changed. Latford saw the changes years ago
and never quit working to refine the allocation of points.
Every year Latford would chat up the topic of the point system
searching for new ideas. However, not once did he come up with a
viable system that changed the eventual outcome of a point battle.
Now we have the CEO of NASCAR, Bill France, saying the system needs
changing. No longer are the cries for change the howling of a
mob-mentality media stoked by the self-serving competitors. France
has told the good folks at USA Today that he has an idea that could
spice up the point system in 2004. He has also said that the current
system isnít broke.
With Franceís comments, the question has changed from why, to when,
to how the point system will be changed.
There are many thoughts about which changes to make, from increasing
the differential between first and second to awarding points based
on qualifying. Just remember no matter what NASCAR does to alter the
point system, not everyone will be pleased and the system will not
The most talked about changes include awarding points based on
qualifying and awarding the same amount of points from a certain
The problem with awarding points for qualifying could be the issue
of engine changes. Is it fair to give the person who qualifies on
the pole five bonus points and then have the car start last because
of an engine change? The current engine rules would allow a driver
to win the pole, but because the team changed engines prior to
qualifying the car would start last in the race.
The same question applies to any driver/car owner awarded points
based on qualifying.
It certainly is not Matt Kensethís fault that he has only won one
race this season while racking up 17 top ten finishes. It isnít
Kensethís fault that his competition has been plagued with bad luck.
Sterling Marlin led the points chase last season with a single win.
NASCAR shouldnít change things just because a majority of the media
has jumped all over the notion change is needed. Given the helm, the
media would have killed the sport a long time ago. I say let the
skipper, who has steered a boat that has grown from a dinghy to a
battleship, do what he thinks is best..
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