Editorial

NASCAR's 10-race playoff idea makes no sense
by Stan Creekmore, NASCAR Editor

December 29, 2003

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No matter how the proposal is packaged, this writer still canít find the logic in holding a ten-race post season in the midst of a 36-race regular season.

The current NASCAR point system has always been about chance, about not putting too much distance between first and second or first and fifth or fifth and tenth. Everyone always felt that no matter what happened in any one particular race, a team and their driver always had a chance to make it up in the next race.

Should NASCAR adopt a system that prevents a driver and a team from pushing hard over the final ten events to win a coveted 10th place position? I think not. Racing isnít supposed to be just about who takes the checkered flag first. Racing is about a team effort that never gives up. Locking in the top-ten with ten races remaining is a death knell to the efforts of those outside the top ten. Where, beyond the dollar differences paid to each position, is the incentive to perform?

No, the NASCAR points system isnít broken and it certainly doesnít need changing for the sake of change.

While a move to a playoff system might sound good for television, it would hardly help sell tickets. It takes 43 drivers to fill the stands. Yes, the majority of the seats are holding butts wearing the clothing of the top-ten; however, maximum profits come by filling all the seats, not just the majority.

Why are we even talking about changing the point system? Is it because there is nothing else nearly as important on the agenda? I doubt that.

Weíre all aflutter about changing the point system because Matt Kenseth put together a year of consistent finishes that simply left his competition in the dust. The more consistent Kenseth ran, the harder his competition tried and the more mistakes they made. Kenseth didnít beat the competition to the checkered flag, with the exception of the one win at Las Vegas in March. What Kenseth did was stay on the track while his competition hit walls, blew engines and made mistakes in the pits.

Quite simply, Kenseth and crew chief Robbie Reiser found the formula that worked in 2003, which is not to say the same formula will work in 2004.

The rules are changing in 2004, with or without a change in the point system. Changes in body shapes, spoiler heights and tire compounds that should put the driver back in control of the racecar; changes which have already proven successful in the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

With all of the changes planned for 2004, changing the point system on top of it all could be destructive to the popularity of the sport. When a race team falls behind the first thing they start doing is making all kinds of changes, despite the knowledge that changing too many things at one time means youíre less likely to know what worked and what didnít work.

It might be nice for NASCAR to wait a year before changing the point system, just to make sure the changes already announced are all that is needed to provide a tight points race in 2004.

The author can be contacted stanc@autoracing1.com

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