News & Media

Changes to scoring system not only element that left fans wondering

January 27, 2011, Joe Menzer,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Change to scoring system not only element that left NASCAR fans wondering

In the wake of Wednesday's announcement of sweeping changes in the way NASCAR intends to do business on race weekends, fans have expressed a need to have some facts clarified.

Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR, announced several changes for the 2011 season Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He then sat down and, along with NASCAR president Mike Helton, attempted to defend and/or explain them to roughly 225 members of the media in attendance.

Competition changes

NASCAR has announced its changes for 2011, chief among them a simpler points system and a wild-card element to the Chase that rewards winning.

Among the points they made that somehow appeared to be lost on many in the immediate aftermath were the following:

Top 35

The Top 35 rule remains in effect. Under this rule, which has come under attack in recent years but less so lately than in previous ones, cars that are in the top 35 in the owners' point standings after the first five races of the season (and remain in or move into the top 35 in subsequent weeks) automatically are guaranteed a starting spot in the next race. The last eight starting positions for a Sprint Cup race will be determined, as in the past, by a combination of a past champion's provisional, if necessary, and those outside of the top 35 in owners' points who post the fastest qualifying speeds.

And as in the past, the top 35 point finishers in last year's final owners' standings are guaranteed starting positions in the first five races this season.

"No news on that," France said. "We looked at that ... [but] the top 35 has not been on the table."


Yes, qualifying procedures have been changed -- with the cars posting the slowest-to-the-fastest practice speeds going out to qualify in that order. Some tracks also will be moving qualifying for Sunday races to Saturday morning -- instead of Friday afternoon or evening -- but that decision will be left up to individual track operators.

"The top 35 in points will be grouped together and the teams that must qualify on time will be grouped together as well," France said. "We implemented this successfully in the Camping World Truck Series in 2010 and it will be used in all three national series beginning in February with the Daytona 500.

"It creates more of a fan-friendly qualifying format. In the case of inclement weather canceling qualifying, the final lineup [for the subsequent race] will be based upon practice speeds. The same procedures stated in the rule book will be used to determine eligibility to start a race. So if weather cancels a practice session, then it will revert back to setting the final starting lineup as we do now based on points [and per the rulebook]."

Wild card

Under the new format, 12 drivers still will qualify for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup -- but the last two will be "wild cards," or the two drivers with the most wins who are not in the top 10, as long as they are ranked in the top 20 in points. If there are two or more drivers tied with the same number of wins for one of those wild-card spots -- or if there are no drivers outside of the top 10 in points who have earned at least one race victory -- a tie-breaking system is in place.

"There will always be 12 drivers," Helton said. "If all of the winners [of the season's first 26 races] are in the top 10, we'll fill 11 and 12 by points. There is always going to be 12; there wouldn't be any more than 12. If there are five drivers that, in theory, are tied for the opportunity to get 11 and 12, then we would break that tie via the rule book to fill the 11th and 12th spots."

Helton also explained that while under the new point system each win during the regular season is worth a three-point bonus to start the Chase for those in the top 10, the two "wild card" entries will not be awarded such a Chase-starting bonus for their race victories.

New point system compared to previous point system

Finishing PositionPrevious Point SystemNew Points System
2-6170-150 (five-point differential between each position)42-38 (one-point differential between each position)
7-11146-130 (four-point differential between each position)37-33 (one-point differential between each position)
12-43127-34 (three-point differential between each position)32-1 (one-point differential between each position)
Lap Led5 points1 point
Most Laps Led5 points1 point

The new Chase compared to the previous Chase

Previous systemNew system

"Their wins [over the first 26 races] do not count for [Chase] seeding," Helton said. "They get the benefit of getting in the Chase."