By Jenna Fryer / The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR is considering scrapping the points system it has used since 1975 in favor of a simpler method that awards points per finishing position, The Associated Press has learned.
The overhauling of the system is one of a handful of changes NASCAR is considering implementing before the season begins next month. Series officials have been detailing their ideas in individual meetings with teams, a person who attended one of the briefings told The AP on Monday.
The person spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because NASCAR has not finalized its upcoming changes.
The sanctioning body wants to go to a scoring system that would award 43 points to the race winner, and one point less for each ensuing position down to one point for the 43rd-place finisher.
NASCAR is also shying away from wholesale changes to its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format.
NASCAR chairman Brian France floated the idea last July of shaking up the Chase to create more drama to the 10-week series that determines the Cup champion. Among France’s suggestions were widening the 12-driver field, instituting elimination rounds, and adding any other drama that could create “Game 7” type moments rivaling those from other professional sports leagues.
But teams have been told NASCAR is leaning toward keeping it a 12-driver field, with one caveat: The top 10 drivers following the 26th race of the season would qualify for the Chase, while the remaining two spots would go to the drivers with the most wins who are not already eligible for the Chase.
NASCAR officials have also told teams they aren’t leaning toward adding eliminations.
Preseason testing begins Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, and NASCAR president Mike Helton and vice president of competition Robin Pemberton are scheduled to discuss some of the changes planned for 2011.
But the major announcements aren’t scheduled until next week when France makes a presentation during Charlotte Motor Speedway’s annual media tour.
France and his top officials found themselves in a precarious position at the end of last season, which was marked by the closest championship race in seven years. France had already publicly toyed with the idea of changing the Chase, which was implemented in 2004 to spice up NASCAR’s championship system.
“Right now every sports league, or almost every one, is looking at what they need to do to change their formats a little or a lot, depending on who they are, to make sure their playoffs or their championship runs are what they want them to be,” France said two days before the November season finale.
Three drivers went into the season finale eligible to win the championship. It went to Jimmie Johnson, who overcame a 15-point deficit to Denny Hamlin in the final race to win his record fifth consecutive title.
Because the system seemingly worked as the Chase played out last season, sweeping changes did not seem necessary.
The points system, though, apparently is a different matter.
NASCAR legend claims the current system was devised on a napkin over drinks at a Daytona bar in 1974 and implemented the next season. The complicated scoring method gives 175 points to the winner, and decreases in increments of five points and then three points down to 34 points for the last-place finisher.
Five-point bonuses are awarded for leading a lap, and to the driver who leads the most laps.
NASCAR is still debating how to award bonuses under a straight points system, and ideas being considered are for anywhere from one to three points being given to lap leaders and race winners.