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Published on January 21st, 2011 | by Michael J Smith


How ‘Simpler’ Points System Would Have Affected 2010

With NASCAR considering changes its scoring system, we at decided to take an in-depth look at how the things would have played out in 2010, if the new points system were used. Tom Bowles of Sports Illustrated re-did the 2010 points, as well.

The main difference in our analysis is that we didn’t award the same amount of bonus points as he did (he gave one point for leading a lap, two for leading the most laps, and three points for winning.)

At this point, details on bonus points have not been disclosed, so we used the current bonus points system as the basis for our analysis.

Because NASCAR currently awards five bonus points for leading a lap and an additional five points for leading the most laps, we awarded one point for leading a lap and two points for leading the most laps. Following that same model, we awarded two points for each victory to be added after the points were reset.

NASCAR is rumored to be considering tweaking the Chase format, taking the top 10 points finishers and the two drivers with the most wins outside of the top 10 in points to complete the Chase field. Details are sketchy at this point, so there is no indication of how ties would be treated.

Under the current system, the Chase drivers were (in order before points were reset after the September race at Richmond International Raceway): Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jmmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Greg Biffle.

Under the new system, Harvick would have still been the points leader but, Gordon would have been in second place, followed by Edwards, Kyle Busch, Burton, Stewart, Kenseth, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Biffle, and Jamie McMurray.

McMurray would have made the Chase under the new system because he had the most wins of a non-top 10 points finisher (two wins). There was a three-way tie between Greg Biffle, Juan Montoya, and David Reutimann (each had one win). For our analysis, we took the highest points finisher of the three, Biffle. That leaves Bowyer as the odd man out.

The only drivers who wouldn’t have changed position under the new system were Harvick, Stewart and Biffle. That, however, is a moot point because once the points were reset, the order would be the same (with the addition of McMurray).

Under the new system, McMurray would have started the Chase tied for fifth with 2,004 points. (We reset the Chase field to 2000 points + 2 points per win.) Hamlin would have been the leader with 2012 points, with Johnson trailing by 2 points.

Johnson still wins the Championship under new points system, edging Kevin Harvick by 2 points. Hamlin finishes third, 7 points behind Harvick. How is that possible? Under the current system, the winner gets an extra 15 points (not including bonus for leading laps) for winning. Under the new system (if a similar bonus is not awarded), the winner would only get one more point then the second place finisher.

Hamlin won twice during the Chase, but only posted an average finish of 7.2 over the final 10 races. Harvick didn’t win (putting him 30 points behind Hamlin (2 wins * 15 points = 30 points)) over the final 10 races, but did post an average finish of 5.8, which under the new system would make him beat Hamlin by 7 points.

Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth finish fourth and fifth, respectively, under both systems.  McMurray, who would have made the Chase thanks to his two wins, would finish sixth, followed by Biffle and Stewart.

Jeff Gordon would finish ahead of Kyle Busch in the points under the new system. Under the old one, Busch finished ahead of Gordon. In this case, Gordon earned 1,176 points over the final 10 races, while Busch earned 1,152 — a 24-point difference. But, because he won three races before the Chase and Gordon didn’t win any, Busch started with a 30-point advantage, leaving Gordon six points shy of beating Busch.

Under the new system, Busch starts the Chase with a six-point advantage. He earns 267 points over the final 10 races, while Gordon earns 279 — a 12-point difference, meaning Gordon would beat him by six points.

This can be partly attributed to the fact that under the new system the advantage for finishing in the top 10 is eliminated. Currently, top 10 finishes are separated by 5 points, with the exception of first and second place which are separated by 15 points. Outside of the top 10, positions are separated by 3 points. Under the new system, each position is separated by one point, which elminates the bonus for finishing in the top 10.

While this was all very convoluted, and somewhat nonsensical, it certainly was fun to analyze. We were glad to see that the new points system wouldn’t affect the Chase and the Championship finishing order in a major way. But, where this could be a potential problem is for the top 35, where the points are tighter and mean more.

We have a hard time believing that NASCAR would move to a simpler points system that wouldn’t offer some sort of points bonus for winning and finishing in the top 10 as an incentive. But, if they are going to move to a simpler points system, they also need to consider how this affects the top 35 in points.  Maybe one day soon, we’ll analyze it and see if it makes a difference.

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About the Author

Michael J. Smith is a NASCAR enthusiast and blogger. In addition to founding this website, Michael is a journalist with over a decade of experience writing for prestigious media organizations.

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