CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR is replacing the complicated scoring system it has used since 1975 with a more straightforward format.
None of the changes for the 2011 season announced by chairman Brian France at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday came as much of a surprise. NASCAR officials had been briefing teams for almost two weeks on the changes in an effort to give competitors feedback on the direction being taken.
A race winner will receive 43 points under the new system, and the points will decrease down to one for the 43rd-place driver. There will be three bonus points for the winner, one bonus point for every driver who leads a lap, and one bonus point to the driver that leads the most laps.
The maximum points available will be 48.
“Now everyone will know, when a driver is down by 10 points, that he needs to pass 11 more cars to take the lead in the point standings,” France said. “We (had) a point system that’s hard to describe for ourselves. We just thought this was the perfect time … (to) simplify it so people can follow.”
NASCAR also tweaked the eligibility requirements for the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
The top 10 in points after the 26th race of the season will make the Chase field, while the final two spots will be “wild cards” designated for the highest race winners not already eligible. The wild cards will only go to drivers ranked inside the top 20 in points.
If no driver outside the top 10 has any victories, the spots will go to the drivers ranked 11th and 12th in the standings.
Adding the wild card was designed to reward winning, which two-time champion Tony Stewart, the only driver in attendance at the announcement, applauded.
“I think that’s a twist that really makes sense,” Stewart said.
For the three days leading into France’s big news, drivers and team owners took their turn weighing in on other issues NASCAR needs to address.
“I absolutely think the races ought to be shorter, and I think the season ought to be shorter,” said Rick Hendrick, NASCAR’s winningest team owner.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, called the refusal to shorten races at tracks such as Pocono Raceway, which at 500 miles has long been considered by drivers to be 100 miles too long, “this huge pink elephant nobody wants to talk about.”