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October 22, 2014

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You don’t need a math degree to understand the new NASCAR points system

I have never been good at math. Throughout my entire education I suffered through math courses, changed math tutors numerous times and dreaded the days that report cards were issued. To this day I’m trying to recover from the mental scars I suffered while trying to get my mind around math. This complete mental block regarding anything with numbers is probably the main reason I became an artist. So you can imagine how elated I was when NASCAR announced a simpler points system. Now the sport has a system for choosing a champion that even I can understand.

But what will it mean for the quality of the racing, the TV ratings and the number of seats sold at the tracks?

There’s already a lot of speculation on whether the changes will spice up the competition. One opinion I’ve heard from friends and read in a few stories is that there aren’t enough points awarded for wins to keep things competitive. The speculation is that the small spread between first and second place might result in a driver protecting his points standing by playing it safe instead of going for a win.

I disagree. A close points battle, which this new plan is designed to accomplish, will make winning more important than the current system. If the battle for the championship comes down to a handful of points, then every point is crucial. And the three bonus points for a win and the additional bonus points for leading a lap or leading the most laps take on new importance.

But how will this affect the overall competition? We will probably see more a competitive season between the top teams that are always in the running for the championship. But I doubt we’ll see a more competitive season throughout the field. That is a problem that has to do with infrastructure. Flat, cookie-cutters tracks are still the main culprit when it comes to less-than exciting racing. And no amount of tinkering around the edges with points systems or spoilers will make an enormous difference to what happens on those tracks.

The 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup was an exciting one. And I think that the new points system will build on that level of excitement. But, ultimately, we’ll have to see how the 2011 season plays out before we can make a assessment on the quality of the racing and the interest from the fans.

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