NASCAR's Sprint Cup scoring system has been something of a black art ever since it was introduced in 1975 that has confused teams, fans and media alike, and this week NASCAR confirmed long-running rumours that the scoring is to be radically simplified for 2011.
"Many of our most loyal fans don't fully understand the points system we have used to date," said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France. "We are simplifying the points system to one that is much easier to understand. Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow."
As expected, the system will now award 43pts to the winner, 42pts to second, 41pts for third right down to 1pt for last place in the 43-car field. There would also be three bonus points to the winner, a bonus point for leading any lap and another for leading the most laps. That would bring the maximum number of points on offer for a single event to 48pts.
The new points system will also be used in other NASCAR championships, so in the Camping World Truck Series the last place driver will gain 8pts because the field in that series numbers only 36 trucks.
As well as making the system much more transparent, it will also mean that scoring is much closer throughout the year and work against anyone gathering an unassailable lead that might impact on competitiveness and dampen fan interest.
"The fans tell us that winning matters the most with them," said France. "This makes every race count leading into the 26th race of the season at Richmond, when we set the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup."
The system used to qualify for the Chase will also be changed, with the top ten qualifying through their points standing after Richmond, but the final two positions going to the two drivers not already qualified who have scored the most race wins in the season to date. If no one outside the top ten had any race wins then the positions would default to the points standings instead.
The drivers who qualify for the Chase will have their points reset to 2000. The top ten drivers will also gain 3pts per win from the season to date, but the two "wild card" qualifiers will not gain this bonus.
Other announcements unveiled at the Sprint Media Tour event NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. include a new qualifying procedure that will see the running order set upon practice speeds, with those with the slowest times going first. In the event of weather cancelling qualifying then the final starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds; if weather cancels the practice sessions then the starting lineup will be set by owner points.