Just a few minutes ago Brian France officially announced that NASCAR would have a new point system; the winner of a race earns 43 points plus 3 bonus points for the win and 1 for leading a lap, meaning they can earn a minimum of 47 points. Leading the most laps earns an extra point so a race winner can earn as many as 48 points.
But how exactly does this compare to the old system in terms of the gap of points between the winner down the running order? Does a bad or middling race hurt you more, less, or make no difference?
Here's how the old point system looked, the points scored and the % of 1st place points that 2nd through 43rd scored (not including bonus points):
What I can see from the numbers is that the point separation within the top 10 would be less since instead of 5 in the top five and 4 in the top ten, you've got just 1 point separating every position from 2nd to 43rd. In fact it takes until the 14th position for the points scored in relation to 1st to be equal in both systems.
Where the new system is really different from the old is the bottom of the finishing order. 20th in the new system earns a bit less points, 30th earns quite a bit less, and the difference between 43rd is staggering. The old system had something of an elevated floor thanks to 34 points for last, but with the new system the floor is in the dirt. You blow an engine on the first lap and you're only getting 2.1% of the points that 1st earns AT BEST.
Does this award winning more? Not really. By the numbers you're not gaining as many points as you would've if you were in a top 10 position but really gunned for the win.
Two things this does is slightly award more for each position outside of the top 13. If you're running 30th, get back on the lead lap with the lucky dog and can scrape out a 20th place finish, that a 21.1% bump compared to 1st with the new system versus 15.8% with the old system. It's the kind of thing that can add up during the first 26 races that could help you make the Chase, and help in a 10 race Chase to keep your championship hopes alive.
But that's countered by the fact that this new point system punishes you HARD if you screw up. Like the earlier example, blow an engine or mess up on an early restart or even the start of the race and you lose a significant chunk of ground compared to the old system. From 15th down to 43rd the extra amount of ground you can lose on the race winner or guys in the top five or ten increase.
Brian France says he wants to make drivers gun for the win more but not only does it not award you anymore for winning than the old system did within the top 10 and potential race contenders, but it could make drivers race even more conservatively because if you screw up you're losing more ground than you did in the old system.
And will it make for a closer championship? Last year would've been closer under this system but this isn't 2010. It's 2011, a new year that will play about in it's own way. NASCAR better hope it makes for an exciting championship because if it doesn't then they'll be left with that criticism and mine on how it doesn't make winning more important.
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