Our two cents: New points system

Updated: January 27, 2011, 6:21 PM ET
ESPN.com staff

What do ESPN.com's writers and editors think of the new points system?

Terry Blount, ESPN.com senior writer

I will start with the positives. I love the two wild-card spots to make the Chase based on wins. It will add some excitement, drama and aggressive racing before the playoff starts.

But overall, the 43-to-1 format has the same flaw as the old system -- not enough points for winning a race. It's a simplified version of the same old deal.

And the new plan destroys a driver for one blown engine. A better idea would have been no points after 30th. Altogether I give the change a C.

Joe Breeze, ESPN.com motorsports editor

If it's simplicity NASCAR wanted with the new 43-to-1 scoring system, mission accomplished. I might not need a computer science degree to decipher the myriad Chase scenarios that'll emerge come September.

But if NASCAR wanted racers bangin' for wins down the stretch of a grueling 36-race season, that probably ain't happening in a system that favors consistency over wins, at least not among the front-runners. The stakes are too high: Can you imagine points leader Jimmie Johnson risking a top-5 at Phoenix in November by going for the win and possibly crashing out? The sizable point differential between third place and 43rd place can mean the difference between a sixth straight Cup title and a season gone bad.

The best thing about the new scoring system? I love the wild-card feature, because that does emphasize winning for Chase bubble drivers in the top 20. They'll have plenty of incentive to drive hard for wins in hopes of making the playoff field. In other words, circle Sept. 10 on your calendars now because that regular-season finale at Richmond will be a doozy.

K. Lee Davis, ESPN.com motorsports editor

My first reaction to the new points system when I first learned about it was two words: lipstick, pig. But thinking about it some more, it may be a better system for the fans and the sport than what we had.

Now the question becomes, what are some of the unintended consequences? Do we really want a dominant driver all season undone by a DNF down the stretch at Texas or Phoenix? Past champions were able to overcome that and win the title, but finishing 36th now is much more damaging than finishing 36th then. Heaven help us if Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters Dega with a 20-point lead and leaves after getting in the Big One all but eliminated from the Chase. And do we want to see drivers laying back over the final laps because finishing eighth instead of 11th just isn't an incremental improvement enough to take the risk?

I think we'll see just as much "points" racing as before. I think we'll see the same eight or nine drivers competing for wins, just as before. It will be easier to add up, though. Maybe my first reaction was right after all.

Ed Hinton, ESPN.com senior writer

Much ado about very little. The points change wasn't even a restructuring, because by percentage, the margins remain roughly the same. The move was mostly cosmetic.

I was relieved that NASCAR tacked on bonus points for winning. A straight 43-1 formula would have been a disastrous throwback to rewarding consistency over winning races. Would love to have seen a straight-up 50 for winning, but I'll take the 43 plus four automatic bonus points -- three for winning and one for leading a lap -- for a guaranteed 47, plus another possible point for leading the most laps, for a possible 48.

I'm pleased with the awarding of the final two Chase berths to the drivers with the most wins who didn't make it in on points. It's about time, based on Brian France's own two best examples -- Jamie McMurray (winner of the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400) who didn't make last year's Chase, and Kyle Busch, who had four wins but missed the playoffs in 2009.

Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine senior writer

I have to admit, when NASCAR chairman Brian France started his Wednesday night comments by declaring that the fans had spoken and they were all about winning, my heart rate picked up a little.

Yes, we already knew what the basic structure of the soon-to-be-revealed points system was going to be. What we didn't know was what type of bonus the race winner was going to receive. So I was still holding out hope that, as in F1 or IndyCar, the winner would be rewarded with a sizable gap between himself and second place.

Turns out, that gap under the new system is, percentagewise, nearly identical to what it was in the old system. Even France admitted that during the media Q&A. And to me, the biggest problem under the old system is now still the biggest problem under the new one.

However, I do like the simpler 43-to-1 structure. A lot.

At the 2010 season finale at Homestead-Miami, those of us in the media center spent the entire race ignoring the race itself, glued instead to the computer monitor that was constantly recalculating the points standings. Why? Because the math under the old system was too complicated to track in real time, a point that nearly every driver on the media tour has reiterated this week.

Now, if Jeff Gordon is four points behind Jimmie Johnson with 10 laps to go I will instantly know that he needs to pass five cars to take the points lead. So will Gordon and Johnson, free of having to radio in and ask the crew to figure it out for them. As for me -- and you -- the days of constantly scrambling for a points system chart and a calculator are over. And that I like very much.

David Newton, ESPN.com NASCAR writer

NASCAR chairman Brian France says the governing body listens to the fans, that it listens to its Fan Council. He says this as he introduces the new points structure that supposedly will make it easier for everyone to follow the sport. I have just one question? Who are these people?

Are these the same ones that he says never complain about the Chase or anything else that I hear from fans? Bottom line, as Bobby Allison told me earlier on Wednesday, NASCAR fixed something that wasn't broken. It simplified a points system but did nothing to address the real concerns of its fan base that will help once again fill stands and improve television ratings.

Yes, we now know if you're 10 points behind the driver in first you have to improve 11 spots to move ahead. Well, that's if you don't win the race, which means you need to improve only seven because you get three bonus points for winning and another for leading a lap. If you lead the most laps that's another point. If NASCAR really wanted to do this right it would have given more points for winning and let six drivers make the Chase on wins instead of two.

As Forrest Gump says, "That's all I have to say about that."

Marty Smith, ESPN NASCAR insider and ESPN.com NASCAR writer

The new points structure offers simpler math, so theoretically it will be easier for NASCAR fans to grasp. After hearing all the intricacies from Brian France, that seems to be the basis for its implementation. Thing is, fundamentally it is very similar to the former system, just with smaller, more manageable numbers. That's fine. The issue is winning.

After years of saying it wanted wins to carry greater emphasis in the quest for championships, NASCAR has unveiled a point structure that rewards consistency. The top 10 in points make the show. That is achieved with consistency. After the points reset, the most consistent driver over the final 10 races will win the title.

That, then, is a consistency-based system. Here's a hypothetical for the sake of argument: Say Jimmie Johnson wins four Chase races and leads the most laps in every one of them, but finishes 20th in six others without leading a lap. That's 336 points earned during the Chase. In those same 10 races, Kevin Harvick finishes fifth every weekend and doesn't lead a single lap during the entire Chase. That's 390 points. He dominates the Chase. Obviously it would be rare for JJ to finish so poorly so often. That's not the point. The point is it could happen.

I do like the wild-card entrants. Here's why: The guys in 11th and 12th place in points entering the Chase are never a factor, anyway, and a win-and-you're-in scenario over the final few races before the Chase could make for some fireworks. That's the one area where wins carry more weight than they used to.