Door-To-Door: Reward the regular-season champ

Still trying to wrap his head around the new Chase format, Marty Smith has at least one new idea as he goes Door-To-Door. The regular-season champ should be rewarded more for his milestone.

Updated: January 25, 2007, 11:24 AM ET
By Marty Smith | ESPN.com

Like most fans, I'm still digesting Chase 2.0. One major criticism of the initial Chase for the Nextel Cup format was the erasure of the leader's season-long accumulated points advantage over his competitors from X-hundred to a paltry five.

Door-To-Door
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At least he was still the points leader entering the Chase.

Under the reformatted playoff, that might not be the case any longer.

In fact, the leader after 26 races could be effectively penalized for running in the top five each week and failing to win. An 800-point lead, built on the strength of top-fives, top-10s, possibly even a couple of wins, could become a substantial deficit through no fault of the team.

I just can't see how that's totally fair. I'm not completely against the change, just still rationalizing everything. It will make for some exciting summers, which NASCAR drastically needs. If I'm TNT, I love this move. Suddenly my six-race schedule, in the dead of summer, has more impact on the championship.

And the drivers like the change. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Tuesday night he likes it. Kasey Kahne, too. Kahne said it's pretty simple: win more. Carl Edwards? Same thing.

Matt Kenseth
Todd Warshaw/Getty ImagesMarty Smith says Matt Kenseth deserved something more than a five-point lead for on top of the standings after the 26th race of the season last year.

I'm all for rewarding winning, and readily admit I was as vocal as anyone about NASCAR's need to do so. It's difficult to win at the Nextel Cup level and it should be amply acknowledged. But it's also hard to lead the point standings after 26 races -- and that should be amply acknowledged, too.

It's time NASCAR rewarded the regular-season champion. Resetting the points so that all begin on equal ground is acceptable. Other sports do that, too. Come playoff time, everyone is 0-0.

But those who excelled during the regular season are rewarded with home-field advantage, possibly even a bye week. The argument there is, well, that success is based on wins. NASCAR is different. It's not one team versus another every week. It's one team versus 42. Consistency still matters, and the most consistent should be rewarded.

Some might argue the most consistent still wins the championship, considering the 10-point bonus per win applies only to Chase qualification.

Ultimately, there should be some sort of points or monetary bonus for the regular-season points champion. If each regular-season victory is worth 10 bonus points, leading the points after two-thirds of the year should be worth 25.

If not points, then set aside that million-dollar bonus that used to go to 11th place and hand it to the regular-season championship team. It earned it.

Marty,

I heard a rumor some time ago that Bruton Smith was looking for a second date for Las Vegas and was looking to purchase Pocono so he could take one of those dates away. Was there ever any progress with that and is it even still a possibility?

Would Bruton consider taking away a date from a track he already owns just to give it to Las Vegas? I've always thought that Pocono needed only one date, and probably only 400 miles of racing.

-- Brandon, Atlanta

Bruton Smith is not interested in moving existing dates from any his tracks -- Atlanta, Bristol, Lowe's, Infineon, Texas, Vegas -- in an effort to produce a second date at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Brandon.

That said, he most certainly wants a second date at Vegas, and has made that quite clear to NASCAR and anyone else willing to listen.

I asked Jerry Gappens, Lowe's Motor Speedway's vice president of communications and Bruton's right-hand man, about the possibility of buying Pocono or any other existing facility, and he said he knew nothing of any pending or proposed purchases.

Dr. and Mrs. Mattioli -- Pocono's owners -- are fine people, lifelong friends of the France family, and their racetrack is the closest NASCAR has to the coveted New York market right now. Should NASCAR race 1,000 miles there in six weeks? No. But I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future.

Marty,

What year did NASCAR institute speed limits on pit road during races?

-- Jeff Millstone, N.J.

According to NASCAR historian Buz McKim, that was 1991, Jeff, following a pit-road accident in the 1990 season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Ricky Rudd spun out on pit road and struck and killed Mike Ritch, a pit crew member on Bill Elliott's team, prompting NASCAR to slow the cars down on the pit lane.

Marty,

It's a shame that ESPN will continue the PC nonsense that you bring to NASCAR. You never take a stand and always defend the NASCAR bottom line. ESPN used to be about the spirit of sports, but now its all politically correct!

I said it before and I stand by what I said: The Marty Smiths of the world cater to the fat, drunk and stupid crowd of NASCAR and couldn't care less about the smart fans like me! I hope I can bring this up at the next Disney Shareholders meeting!

-- Rusty

Somebody has to take care of the fat, drunk crowd, Rusty. I relish the opportunity.

Marty,

I think the Car of Tomorrow is a mistake. What do you think the odds are that Chevrolet or Ford would pull out of the sport as a result? And does NASCAR even care? I think that they should rethink what this could do to their "growing popularity."

I have been a fan for 20 years, but not real sure how much longer I can hold out … maybe I'll check out what those Formula One guys are all about. Thanks.

Glen, Collierville, Tenn.

The odds are nonexistent that Chevrolet or Ford would contemplate a departure from the sport based on the Car of Tomorrow, Glen. It gives manufacturers a high-profile platform to market another model, as Chevrolet will do with its Impala SS and Dodge with its Avenger.

I contacted Ford Racing Technology spokesman Kevin Kennedy via e-mail and posed your question, Glen. His response is as follows:

"The odds are nil that Ford would leave the sport because of the Car of Tomorrow. We completely agree with NASCAR philosophically in trying to make the car safer for the drivers, and have offered our assistance any way we can to further those efforts."

Kennedy admitted, though, that manufacturer identity is a concern.

"We want to ensure there is as much individual manufacturer identity as possible on both the COT and the current race car," he wrote. "We have addressed those concerns with NASCAR privately, and are now concerned with making sure our teams are competitive with the COT."

Thanks for reading, folks, and have a stellar day. Send me some questions, they were in short supply this week.

Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.

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