Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NASCAR makes changes in chase, points, qualifying, championship, and upgrading Cup COT for the better.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, its not every day that NASCAR impresses me with changes, however at the beginning of ever season, I always seem to look forward to seeing what changes NASCAR has in store for us. Last year I was open to the “Boy’s, Have at it” idea, but was disappointed because they set no boundaries for the drivers and that lead to a nightmare for several on the racetrack. A perfect example of that are two of NASCAR’s dirtiest drivers Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch getting away with everything on-track.

This year however, things are getting better in some areas like with the chase and points system for example and that’s great to see for this NASCAR fan that has been around since 1992.

Earlier this evening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, NASCAR CEO Brian France announced several changes for the upcoming 2011 NASCAR season that begins for all three national series at Daytona International Speedway next month (February 2011) with the Daytona 500.

1. NASCAR makes the points system simpler for everybody by going to a 1 point per position system. Basically the winner of the race will earn 43 points plus 1 bonus point for leading a lap. A driver can get a max of 48 points per race. Second place would receive 42 points, 3rd would receive 41 points and so on down the line to 43rd place getting a mere 1 point. As Darrell Waltrip put it on NASCAR RaceHub, its kind of ironic that NASCAR will award the max of 48 points per race…get it #48-Jimmie Johnson, 48 points.

Anyway, bonus points will now include 3 bonus points for winning a race, 1 bonus point for leading a lap, 1 bonus point for leading the most laps.

Every since I heard NASCAR might be going to this 1 point per position points system; I was excited and onboard from the very beginning. Now that it’s in place, I believe that the media will be able to explain the points system to fans better as well as drivers and team being able to calculate how many points they get per race a lot easier. But keep in mind, changing this system to me isn’t about changing Jimmie Johnson in someway, it’s about making it simpler for everybody to understand and that’s the way it should be.

2. The Chase for the Sprint Cup. Despite the fact that I nor several NASCAR fans don’t care for the chase at all, I know and have accepted the fact that the chase will live on for several years at least to come. So at least the need for some changes is to be expected. Now I was looking for more of an elimination type format like drivers outside the top 5 falling down out of the chase once they are mathematically eliminated from winning the chase and having to defend there position. But no such luck.

Instead the new chase format will still have 12 driver, but this year will have 1-10 in points be locked in with 11 and 12th be based on wins (those drivers must be inside the top 20 to qualify). For example, in 2010, Jamie McMurray would have made the chase because of is two victories and Greg Biffle for his 1 win, but Clint Bowyer would have been out of the chase.
The points will be reset to 2000 with 3 points giving for each victory in the regular season for 1-10. Drivers 11 and 12 can’t move up.

All in all, I like the changes, but expected more and will expect more for 2012.

3. Drivers can only run for one championship. This one here is a tricky one, yes it limits drivers especially Cup Series drivers from competing in more then one series for the championship, but it doesn’t limit how many races they can complete in.

Basically for 2011, each driver in all three national series must declare which of the three championships they are running for before the season starts. That change is a good one for sure, but like I said, it also doesn’t go far enough.

Basically both the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series need there own identity and stars to succeed in racing, otherwise the Nationwide Series will just be nothing more then a Cup Lite Series. And the Truck Series would exist anymore. Both Series need work, but at least this is a good start.

4. Qualifying. In a simpler type change, NASCAR will stop drawing from a hat to determine qualifying order and instead use practice speeds. In addition, if qualifying is rained out, but not practice, the starting lineup will also be determined by practice speeds. But if practice and qualifying is both rained out, then it goes back to the old system of points standings.
That change is a little bit better, but they failed to address the go or go home drivers. NASCAR should at least hold a small qualifying for go or go home drivers or just use the practice speeds.

5. Upgrading the Cup Series COT car. Last year, NASCAR announced the addition of changing the front splitter to a more body kit type look. The change is better for both looks and function. The look is more natural, it goes along with what you see in the showroom now especially if the car has a body kit of sort. And the function, no more broken braces. I mean that nailed so many drivers in 2010 including Denny Hamlin at Homestead. It was a nightmare in the making and Kurt Busch at a few racetracks proved that.

After looking at all of the changes, I have to say that while I’m excited about 2011, I still have to bat in the pit of my stomach that says NASCAR should have put more boundaries on drivers for the “Boy’s, Have at it”. I mean that is what turned me off last year. NASCAR need simple rules like the NFL does, it’s just not right to let the inmates run the asylum. Drivers need rules. Right now, after the new changes, the “Boy’s, Have at it” is NASCAR biggest problem that they can fix, outside of ticket sales and ratings.

But I didn’t hear anything about shortening races or changing start times to reflex what the networks want. I will be interested in seeing changes in those areas as well in 2012.