Mandy Mitchell

Drivers, the new points system and you

Posted January 24

— When I heard about the new points system in NASCAR, I thought what I think a lot of race fans thought. "They are changing the rules again?"

I have now spent the day with some of the drivers during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte and I have to admit the changes are growing on me. I think Danica Patrick said it best when she pointed out the races will now have more winners. She said fans can understand winners. That really makes a lot more sense to me than trying to figure out points and bonus points and segments and cautions and all of that.

If you haven't studied the new rules yet let me break them down a little for you.

  • The race will now be divided into three segments and those segments will be separated by planned cautions. Drivers can earn points for winning a segment.

What does this mean for you as a race fan? If your driver is leading the entire race and gets shoved into the wall by Brad Keselowski in the final lap, it's not all lost. Your driver still picks up valuable points for the great effort in 95 percent of the race. Fewer reasons to throw the remote at the TV I guess?

"When you look at what's important for television, drivers, teams and NASCAR and put that all together, I think we've ended in a pretty good place," said Jimmie Johnson who is the reigning cup champion and the winner of seven championships.

  • Winners of the segments will earn bonus points to carry into the playoff:

What does this mean for you as a race fan? Your driver can earn something REALLY important even if he/she doesn't win the race. This goes back to the thing Danica was talking about. More winners=more happy people at the end of the race.

  • There will now be a "regular season champ" which comes with 15 bonus points for the playoffs.

What does this mean for you as a race fan? It creates much more excitement for races in the middle of the season. It's really easy for those races not to matter much. A guy like Jimmie Johnson is usually "in" the Chase by then. Now he could be in a tight race for those 15 points and that will create for some more exciting moments in many races.

"Last year that's not really the case because you would win a race and you're (In the Chase for the Championship)," said Matt Kenseth who won the championship in 2003. "You would still race as hard as you can and all that but the pressure wasn't the same."

Drivers are saying all of the "right" things here in Charlotte, and you would expect that. No one wants to say really bad things about your employer in public.

"I think it's unfair for us for us to sit up here and act like this format is going to completely change the racing and it's going to make us try harder and race harder because I think we are all already trying very hard as it sits as we always have," said 2016 Rookie of the year Chase Elliott. "At the end of the day, running well is going to reward you."

I do think a lot of them mean what they are saying, though. They all understand the ratings are down and it won't hurt to add a little energy to the sport. If nothing else it's gotten people talking about NASCAR in January. I am very interested to see how this first year goes and how it changes the races.


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