The view from my couch

Thoughts on the Points Modifications in Cup Racing
by Vivian Simons
January 21, 2004

For years Nascar had a points system in place that awarded a driver and crowned him Champion after he accumulated the most points during the season based on the consistency of his and his team's performance throughout the year. Most of the drivers, teams and fans felt this was almost as fair as it could be. Some thought maybe awarding the winner of races a few more points would be nice and maybe the fastest qualifier should get some points also. For many years a Champion was crowned based on his consistency and on all types of tracks and all seemed to be well in the world of Cup racing. Most years there was no criticism as to how the Champion was determined until there was a change of guard and television became the most important aspect of racing rather than the actual racing, racers and teams. It seems as if tradition is out and ratings are in. Television ratings must stay high regardless.

In 2004 all drivers, teams and fans waited for the big announcement of the new points system. We had been told there would be a change and most of us referred to it as the Cup "playoffs". A lot of us, in fact the majority, felt totally betrayed by the new powers in Nascar. Not only had we lost the tradition of some of the oldest races, tracks and dates, now we were being told the Champion would be determined during the last 10 races of the season which were all on similar tracks. We were also told only the top 10 in points at that time would be eligible to be Champion. However there could be wild card drivers who might be considered if they were within so many points of the leader at that time. At this time I personally felt that we were going back to the schedule of the local tracks on a Saturday night. First the time trials (qualifying), then the heat races (first 26 races), then the consolation (wild cards) and finally the main event (last 10 races). Wow! What a novel idea! Playoffs and wild cards sounded very familiar. Are we now copying the NFL? Oh yes, the AFC playoffs on January 18 introduced Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his #8 car who went into the game and scored, thanks to Nextel. Of course it was only a commercial but the parallel was beginning to come into play. And to be sure Nascar was equally represented when Darrell Waltrip showed up on the halftime show of the NFC playoff game. The fans were still wondering what Brian France meant when he told us that as soon as it was properly explained to us and we understood it, that we would like it. Finally Tuesday, January 20th came.

Please welcome The Nextel Nascar Cup Chase For The Championship. However, I tend to think of it now as NNE, aka Nextel Nascar Entertainment. The only thing we don't have at this time is Vince McMahan. Does Brian France really think he can make NNE into the show that WWE have become? Will we soon be having pay per view so the $$$ demand can be satisfied? I watched and listened as Mike Helton and Brian France proceeded to explain the modifications in the points. What came across to me was the following: The repeating of "It is what it is." by Mike Helton and no matter how the fans feel, they won't run it the way the fans want it according to Brian France. France also stated the new system will work and the fans will like it and continue to be fans. And no, it is not a playoff; it is a shootout. He stated it is in alignment with the NFL and other sports to draw excitement during the last part of the season. The problem I have with this is we are dealing with a complete team for one driver, not just one player of the game uh, race. Each team has sponsors and I know if I were a sponsor and my driver was 403 points behind the leader at the end of 26 races and he just happened to win 3 or 4 of the last 10 races, but could not advance up into the top ten, I would think twice about renewing or continuing sponsoring a car and driver in NNE. There is a heck of a lot of $$$ difference here and my driver would not have a chance to get more $$$ by winning some of the last 10 races. Oh yes, he would still be in the running to win a race, just not run for the Championship. I do believe that Mike Helton said the first ten would be set for the remainder of the season and again said, "It is what it is." Can someone correct me if I misunderstood this portion of the modification?

Most of the questions by the media were good questions and some were answered well and some were not answered as presented, but kind of skirted around. I really could not get a handle on how they felt about the changes. The lady from the Washington Post had a really good question and I felt that the answer they gave her wasn't really answered as directly as it could have been. Some of the questions were not loud enough for us to hear and when the answers came, we could only assume what the question was.

At this time, I still feel we will be treated to back in time local track racing as I mentioned above. The only difference being that it won't be completed in one night or on one track but at different tracks and over a period of 10 months. We now have quals, heats and/or B mains, consys and finally the main event. What a significant change in the world of Nascar!

One more question: What do you think The Intimidator would think of this?

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