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New points system tested by Bayne win

21 February 2011

NASCAR woke up with two headaches this morning: one thanks to the post-race celebrations for winner Trevor Bayne, and the other from looking at the odd state of the Sprint Cup points table the morning after the race before, which needed some explaining.

Despite winning the Great American Race, Trevor Bayne is still listed as having 0pts in the Sprint Cup, while Carl Edwards sits at the top of the table with 42pts. The reason? NASCAR's new rule allowing drivers to score championship points in only one of the NASCAR series.

That means that drivers have to nominate at the start of the season which of the three NASCAR series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck) they elect to receive championships points for. Previously, drivers could compete in multiple NASCAR series and score driver points in all of them but the change was brought in during January to ensure that drivers competing only in these other series were not overshadowed by Sprint Cup contenders grabbing the points. (Team owners still receive the points for the car's performance regardless of which series the driver is receiving their points in.)

The Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, is set to receive points for the Nationwide Series only and so the 47pts he would have won for the race victory on Sunday go unclaimed. Bayne made this choice because he's only scheduled to compete in 17 of the 36 Sprint Cup races in 2011 in the #21, as Wood Brothers Racing no longer runs full season campaigns.

Nor is the problem limited to the Sprint Cup standings. Tony Stewart won the Nationwide race on Saturday, but as a Sprint Cup driver he receives no points and instead Landon Cassill tops the points table, while in the Truck series it's Clay Rodgers who is top of the points despite coming in third in Friday's race behind Michael Waltrip and Elliott Sadler.

It might cause some casual fans to scratch their heads when they wonder why Bayne, Stewart and Waltrip scored no points for their victories, but is it an actual problem for NASCAR?

Considering the main reason for the overhaul of the points system last month was to simplify things for the fans and make everything easier to understand, anything that then re-complicates matters is to be regretted. There's also the potential that the drivers who end up with the most points from a race, such as Carl Edwards in Sprint Cup, lack a "legitimacy" - that they shouldn't be leading the championship when they were beaten in the race, and are somehow "second best" despite their points lead.

On the other hand, any new way of doing things is bound to take some getting used to, and with this being the biggest change to NASCAR scoring since 1975 it was always going to take some explaining first time around. But fans will probably get used to it, and in any case the discrepancy will never be as stark as it is after a single race in Daytona where the winner is directly affected: if this had happened mid-season it's unlikely that anyone would even have noticed that the winner didn't get a bump up the points table.

After the race, the odd sight of the winner of the Daytona 500 being listed as having no points looked for all the world like a computer glitch, and the question is whether fans will get used to it or even whether NASCAR simply need to improve their communications about why no points have been awarded to certain drivers - something singularly lacking from the various official information sources on Sunday evening which left fans and media to piece it together on their own.

But the 'glitch' after Daytona doesn't change the reason that the new role was introduced in the first place - to ensure that the next generation of drivers coming up through Nationwide and Truck races get their fair shot at winning a title and not seeing it go to a Sprint Cup driver using the races as a practice warm-up for their day job.


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