DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When asked what he thinks about NASCAR's new 43-to-1 points system, Greg Biffle had an interesting take. He said that while it's simpler – 43 points for finishing first, 42 for second on down to one point for last place – it's going to take some time to fully understand what a specific points deficit really means.
"We're used to saying 150 points separates the top six guys and now it's gonna be there are only 30 points separating these guys," explained the Roush Fenway driver. "Technically, it's the same amount of positions you need to make up, so I think it's gonna take a little bit of time for everybody to get used to what the number means."
He's right. It's easy for us to know what the value of a dollar is today, but try putting yourself back in 1892. Not so intuitive, is it? This is the same thing.
But it's the second part of what Biffle said that hits at the core of the new points system: "Technically, it's the same amount of positions you need to make up." Without actually saying it, Biffle underscores the inherent flaw in this "change," which is that nothing has actually changed.
Yes, it's simpler, but there is nothing substantively different about the new points system, not that there had to be. Of all the complaints coming from NASCAR Nation, a revamping of the points ranked about 384th on the wish list.
Old vs. New
Comparing the 2010 standings under the old and new points systems:
*Qualifies based on regular season wins
What fans are screaming for is that NASCAR reward winning more. Fans want to see drivers race for wins, not salvaging the best finish possible. While the drivers will tell you they're always racing for the win, that's a hard pill to swallow when you compare Kyle Busch's approach to everyone else's.
To their credit, NASCAR did show some flexibility. It's not every day a sport revamps the way it keeps score. But in the end, NASCAR blew this opportunity. Instead of rewarding winning more, the new points system actually devalues wins by a small fraction.
NASCAR will counter by saying it has placed added importance on winning by restructuring the Chase to include the two drivers with the most wins not in the top 10 at the end of the regular season. Great, but what about once the Chase begins? We're right back where we started.
Maybe this isn't what it's about. Maybe (read: probably) what this is all about is pumping up the Chase by creating a tighter points battle, or at least the perception that things are tighter. Instead of Jimmie Johnson (or whoever) going into the season finale with a 50-point lead, the margin is six, thus interest in the Chase rises, television ratings go up and everyone can sing "Kumbaya" on the way to the checkered flag. Or so the thinking goes.
If only the folks were smarter and actually knew what they were missing!
Because there's nothing substantive about the points change, we can only assume NASCAR thinks the Chase is good as-is, and that they blame the decline in television ratings – down more than 20 percent for this year's playoff – and the public's general ambivalence toward the Chase on you, the folks, for not getting it.
What they don't seem to be considering is that maybe you have something better to do, like, say, watching a football game. Or that you just don't like the Chase at all. Or maybe it's something else entirely.
Whatever the case is, NASCAR didn't do anything to address those concerns. While they might not know that now, they'll find out soon enough. Because as Biffle said, it's going to take a little bit of time for everybody to get used to what the new numbers mean: nothing.
When they do figure that out, it'll be back to the drawing board, looking for the next "fix" to what's plaguing the sport. Never mind that what's plaguing NASCAR is right in front of them – at least six too many weekends a year.
The NFL season lasts five months, Major League Baseball and the NBA seven to 7½. NASCAR's 36-plus-two-exhibition-race season stretches from February to November – nine full months. Factor in races that extend into the four-hour range and you have a sport that's trying to defy the laws of the 21st century attention span.
So how do Brian France and the NASCAR brass react to that? They take their oversaturated product, slap a new wrapper on it and tell us it's all better.
The problem with that is, the thing they fixed wasn't the part that's broken.