This week we continue our theme of how NASCAR is different from most sports by taking a closer look at the NASCAR point system. The point system is something that has always been confusing to me. Most sports are all or nothing events…there are no points for coming in second place. Not the case in the world of NASCAR!
The NASCAR point system rewards consistency as much as it rewards winning. There are two basic ways to score points in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race – finishing position and bonus points. The winner of the race earns 185 points, while the 2nd and 3rd place drivers earn 170 and 165 points respectively. Even the driver who comes in last in the race is awarded 34 points just for completing the race. Bonus points are awarded throughout the race – five bonus points are awarded to any driver that leads any lap. An additional five bonus points are awarded to the driver that leads the most laps. So the maximum number of points a driver can earn during a single race is 195 points.
Points are compiled over the race season, which begins in February and ends in November. Every race on the schedule is worth the same amount of points, with two exceptions - the Budweiser Shootout and the Sprint All-Star race are not worth any points. Because the races are worth the same number of points, there are no “unimportant” races – Daytona is just as important as Dover. The driver with the most points at the end of the season is declared the champion. Sounds simple, right? Not exactly…
Beginning with the 2007 season, NASCAR changed the point system format. Points are now tallied after 26 races and the top twelve drivers in points at that time are locked into the final ten races of the season, known as The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. This point in the season is similar to the playoffs in other sports.
At the beginning of The Chase, all twelve drivers have their points manually set to 5,000 plus ten points for every race that they won during the first 26 races of the season. For example, a driver who finishes in the top twelve in points for the first 26 races of the season and has won three races during the season would start The Chase with 5,030 points. For the last ten races (The Chase), NASCAR points are still assigned the same way as the rest of the season to determine the champion – a maximum of 195 points for wining a single race. The driver with the most points at the end of The Chase is the champion.
The Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series don’t use The Chase point format. They simply race every race, tally the points at the end of the season and award the championship to the driver that has the most points.
There has been a lot of debate and discussion over the changes made to the point system in 2007; however, regardless of how everyone views the issue, they can all agree on one important fact: every race is still equally exciting!