Cars We Remember: What’s the Deal With NASCAR’s Points System?

Posted by
This week, Greg Zyla gets mail from a reader who takes issue with NASCAR and its less-than-satisfactory Chase for the Sprint Cup and Chase Grid system.

Q: Hi Greg. I’m an avid NASCAR fan and have been so since the Sixties.  I am upset with the current points playoff system, and ask you to please weigh in with your feelings on this subject.  I think I know from recent articles your feelings, but how about an update? Henry S,  Easton, Pa.
A: Henry, I will come right to the point and let you know I am not a big fan of the current NASCAR playoff points system incorporated by NASCAR to generate more interest. Here’s why I dislike it:
If Ryan Newman continues to advance as he is currently doing through 31 races, and with nothing against Ryan Newman as a race driver, it is possible that he could win the overall NASCAR Sprint Cup title even though he has yet to win a race in 2014.
Think about it: Ryan Newman has a real shot at winning the Sprint Cup even though he has no wins and only two top five finishes in 31 races!  Under the old rules he would not be in this position, and to further give another example, had the old point system been in place Jeff Gordon would already have won two more championships! Currently, Brad Keselowski  has five wins and 13 top fives in 31 races, and he is headed for elimination if he doesn’t win at Talladega. (Column written before Talladega race).
Further, and to perhaps complicate matters,  I do think the France family is doing what it feels is right to help the Sprint Cup division become as popular as it used to be. To journalists who always complain about the France family and how they rule, you can count me out. I am not one of them.  I think NASCAR racing is great, but also feel the points system is totally messed up at this point.
Granted, I’d like to see things different, but I do see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Specifically, NASCAR has finally put the Southern 500 back where it always belonged, and that is at historic Darlington on Labor Day weekend. After several years of experimenting with putting the Labor Day event at Atlanta, NASCAR officials finally reversed its original decision and had moved the Southern 500 back home in 2015.
These Darlington Labor Day roots also sprouted the very first ever NASCAR feature film called “Thunder in Carolina,” which starred Rory Calhoun in 1960. It centered on the “granddaddy of them all,” namely,  the Darlington Southern 500. This is a good sign NASCAR is re-thinking its moves.
It is crystal clear the new playoff point system playoff does not reward drivers for their season long accomplishments, especially as points are “reset.” Because of this, Ryan Newman could win the title this year, and under the current rules, would have earned it even though I’m sure he would admit he’s had a mediocre year at best.
I have always felt NASCAR is trying to be more like baseball and football than fully realizing that the sport of NASCAR Sprint Cup is far above any baseball or football game. To me, each race should be treated the same when it comes to points and a season championship. I personally don’t care if there is a “runaway” by a single driver, as the “playoff atmosphere” NASCAR had hoped for just hasn’t developed.
In ending, and I could go on and on about the situation, I again don’t want to make it look like the France family doesn’t know what they are doing. Had the Frances been in charge of the NFL during its recent   troubles, I feel the problem would have been handled immediately, similar to how they handle situations that come to light in the NASCAR divisions.  If you do drugs, as an example, don’t expect to drive anytime soon regardless of what your name is. If you do worse, expect a possible lifetime ban. The Frances have firmly and fairly ruled NASCAR since 1948 and things haven’t changed for the worse because I thank them every time the green flag drops whether I’m there in person or watching on my TV.
In ending, I long to see NASCAR revert back to the old points format.  I do like the extra points for wins, lap led bonuses and the 43-point awarding system, so let’s hope NASCAR one day realizes each and every race is just as important as the other, and will make this important change back to the “good old days” and eliminate this crazy playoff system.
Thanks for your letter, Henry.
(Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and He welcomes reader questions on auto nostalgia and old-time racing at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email at
Greg Zyla

Greg Zyla