Monday, January 13, 2014

NASCAR Needs More Emphasis On Winning

Surprisingly, NASCAR has entertained the notion of changing the points structure to put some more emphasis on winning, and that many drivers claim they're trying as hard as they can to win races. Brian France appeared on MRN's "NASCAR Live" show and stated the sanctioning body isn't satisfied with the balance of winning and consistency in the championship.  And several drivers such as Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, and Carl Edwards insist that they're doing all they can to win races.

Sorry, but they're not telling the truth.   And as usual, it's the lead changes - the lack of them - that discredits their argument.  

Last October the Diehard 500 at Talladega saw 52 lead changes - for all of NASCAR's self-congradulatory emphasis that the seasons are breaking new records for lead changes, Talladega is almost always the only race all season to even reach 35 lead changes, never mind break 50 - but the big story of that race was that in the final 15 or so laps the field stopped racing and instead went into points-preservation mode.   Points racing has been a curse in the sport for over twenty years, and recognition of it dates to the early 1980s with criticism of the Latford Point System and its surprising lack of emphasis on winning. 

That the issue of lack of lead changes is not exclusively points related is true enough, as the technical issues of the racecars has been a chronic source of discussion forever.    Yet driver indifference to winning is real, because the fight for the lead almost never happens - between the excesses of the technology arms race and the indifference in the points structure toward winning or leading, the much-maligned intermediate tracks would be breaking 40 lead changes as a rule instead of an exception otherwise. 

A points system where winning the race pays far more in points and where leading the most laps allows the driver to make major points gains even with a mediocre finish is a points system that the sport can believe in because it is a points system where going for the win is the focus.   Correcting the racecar issues stifling passing remains a priority as well, but it should not be overlooked how more points for winning and more for most laps led are a necessity as well.

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