Bringing up old points system a tired argument

Jay Hart

We've reached the end of Happy Hour in 2010. Thanks for your letters, and we'll get back to it in 2011. Let's get to the final mailbag of the year:

Old vs. New

Jay, I don't always agree with you especially when it comes to the chase, however, I am beginning to lose respect. Your answer for the following question may have come from the mouth of France himself...or did it?

"I haven't seen anything on this, but how would Kevin Harvick have finished this year under the old points system. He did dominate the entire year. Ken Smudzinski Crestview, Fla.

Your response: "I could tell you, but it’s irrelevant. Everyone races the season the same – to be the leader after 36 races, not 26, so that’s how they strategize. That being said, if NASCAR would do the right thing, they would give a 50-point bonus for being the points leader at the end of the regular season. Had they done that, and had Harvick been the leader, he would be your 2010 Sprint Cup champion."

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That is perhaps the most arrogant and ignorant answer you could have given. Not only are you aware that Harvick would have won by some 200 points under the old (real) system but your statement that it was "team strategy" to fall 200 points back through 26 races for Johnson and Hamlin is ridiculous.

You owe Mr. Smudzinski an apology. You are certainly entitled to love the chase but not for smug arrogant responses to legitimate questions!!

Ron Christenson
Merrifield, Minn.

Don't see where my response was arrogant and smug.

I get hundreds of emails from people asking this exact same question, and I've responded to it a number of times before. From my perspective, it's time to get over asking who would have won under the old system.

Are we still wondering who would have won the World Series if there were only two divisions, as there were up until 1969? Should we constantly wonder how many points Shaq would have scored if there were no three-second rule, as in Wilt Chamberlain's day? Should Justin Bieber not be a megastar because he capitalized on this new-age Internet thing? (Note: Not a Bieber fan, but there's no denying the kid's talented.)

Times change. Richard Petty earned $8.5 million in race winnings his entire career. Reed Sorenson's won $19 million in his. You don't hear Petty complaining, do you?

But more to the point – and I can't say this enough – adding up who would have won under the old system is a flawed calculation. With the Chase in play, the strategy isn't to fall behind by 200 points; it's to gear up for the final 10 races of the season. If the Cup Series was still under the old format, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and everyone else – including Kevin Harvick – would have raced the first 26 races differently. Thus, the standings after 26 races would not necessarily have had Harvick in the lead, let alone by 200 points.

Rewarding the regular-season champ

Hi Jay, I read your column every week. I respect your opinion and normally agree with you. However, this week you made one mistake. If Harvick did get 50 bonus points for being the regular season leader, he would have started the chase 30 points ahead of Johnson (Harvick won 3 races during the regular season so that would have given him 5080 to start the Chase if NASCAR awarded him the 50 for leading after race 26. Johnson had 5050 as he won 5 during the regular season). Johnson finished the Chase 42 points ahead of Harvick, so Johnson would still be the Sprint Cup Champion at the end of the year by a margin of 12 points, or is my math completely off on this one?

Erik Yager
Columbia, Md.

Yes, under your scenario you are correct. So let me be a little more specific: I am not in favor of resetting the points based on regular-season wins. I would do it based on the standings at the end of the regular season and would give the first-place driver at least a 50-point lead over the second-place driver. Under this scenario, Harvick would have been the 2010 Sprint Cup champion by 29 points.

This and that …

Has NASCAR ever considered a "drop rule"? I race mountain bikes in a 10 race series. We count the scores in the best 8 out of 10 races.

Several Chase drivers got put out of the running early due to one bad race. Racing is full of potential disasters that are purely chance. One bad call, one unlucky wreck and you're toast.

This promotes "safe racing" in which the points leaders are the ones that put it squarely on the line the fewest times. Safe racing is boring racing. Also, all the other drivers are afraid of getting too close to the top contenders because a mere touch could send the top driver out of contention. Bad feelings, bad press.

Let the Chase be scored as the best 9 out of 10 and you'll see more door-to-door racing and closer scores coming into Homestead.

Mike Coe
Plano, Texas

It's an interesting idea, but I think NASCAR would be treading on thin ice with this one.

A good chunk of fans are already livid over the fact that the champion isn't determined over the course of the entire season. Adding a "drop rule" to the Chase would only further alienate this faction.

Furthermore, it would harm the driver/drivers who are rock solid for all 10 races, and could potentially render the 10th race meaningless if one driver doesn't need his mulligan and could therefore use it in the season finale.

What's your view of MWR, and do you see a Chase bid for either the #56 or the #00?

Derek Richardson
Bronx, N.Y.

It's good to see another team be competitive, but it's getting really crowded at the top.

For starters, who of the 12 Chase drivers in 2010 do you see dropping out in 2011? Then factor in that Mark Martin didn't make the Chase this season. Neither did Ryan Newman (2009 Chase qualifier), Jamie McMurray (three wins), Kasey Kahne (2009 Chase qualifier), Juan Pablo Montoya (2009 Chase qualifier) or Joey Logano, who was as consistent as anyone in the last six weeks of the season. And then there's Brian Vickers, who will be back in 2011.

I give Michael Waltrip a lot of credit for not only sticking through the tough times, but building a solid race team from scratch in an era when that's next to impossible to do. That said, I don't see either Martin Truex Jr. or David Reutimann making the Chase next season. They're good – just not good enough.

Jay, read your column faithfully every week. My question is why does Mark Martin have to suffer 2 years in a row with crew chief and crew changes when he teaches them his style?

For example, 2 years ago he had the run of his career, finished runner-up and Rick sent all of his team to the #88, Mark had to start all over again in 2010. He suffered but about the last 1/4 of the season it seemed he had molded the team he inherited and was posting top 10s. Now here we go again with 2011, another new team. What gives?

Sandy Crouch

Let's be clear about the changes in 2010: Mark Martin didn't lose his entire team to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Rather, Rick Hendrick shifted some engineering resources to the 88. But you are right in pointing out that whatever changes were made clearly had a negative impact on Martin in 2010.

The answer to your question, I think, is that Martin sits lowest on Hendrick's priority list. Getting Junior running up front and Jeff Gordon back to victory lane are bigger priorities right now than making sure a soon-to-be 52-year-old on his way out the door is running well.

This isn't to say Hendrick has written off Martin. But sometimes decisions made in the interest of an entire organization don't benefit certain individuals, and I think this is one of those times.

Thanks for reading, Sandy.

It's the time of year that makes me wish that NASCAR had a 52 week season. Yeah I know, I know, they need time to make new cars and such but I seem to find something missing from my Sunday afternoons.

NASCAR keeps looking for ways they can change it up some to keep the fan interest going, well I have a suggestion. Take the Truck season and run it starting the week after the Big Bash in Vegas where we crown our champion, then end their season in Daytona the day before the 500.

Speed could cover the races, there's a lot of Cup guys that would run the series just because they live to race. It'd also give the drivers needing more seat time a chance to hone their skills throughout the year, hint hint Danica Patrick.

Dave Garnett
Lufkin, Texas

Not a bad idea, Dave, but would you mind if I took a few weeks off?

Last call of 2010 …

Jay! You can pull your head out of Jommy's nether region now! The season is over along with Nascar's greatness as they have seen fit to place a phony champion at the top of the series!

Kankakee, Ill.