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Retro Racing: Bayne joins Foyt in record books

February 25, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Becomes second Daytona 500 winner not to receive points; evolution of system

With his victory in Sunday's Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne put himself in some select company. And thanks to NASCAR's new points system rules, he wound up in a situation that hasn't cropped up in more than three decades.

The last time a Daytona 500 winner wasn't credited with points was in 1972, when A.J. Foyt won in a No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury. According to NASCAR historian Buz McKim, Foyt had a USAC driver's license but was given an exemption by FIA -- the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile -- to compete in the 500.

Therefore, he wasn't eligible for the NASCAR championship and received no points. Foyt would go on to win two weeks later at California's Ontario Motor Speedway, which eventually left him tied for fourth in wins with Buddy Baker.

Three drivers dominated the 1972 season. Bobby Allison won 10 races but finished second in the points to Richard Petty, an eight-time winner. David Pearson made only 17 starts -- one race fewer than Bayne is scheduled to drive for the Woods in 2011 -- but won six of those and recorded 13 top-10 finishes.

But what makes 1972 more interesting is the role it played in the eventual modernization of the Cup Series and its point system.

In NASCAR's early days, the sanctioning body awarded points to the top 10 finishers in each race -- 10 for first, 9 for second, 8 for third, and so on -- multiplied by a percentage of the race purse. In 1952, the basis was expanded to the top 25 finishers and the multiplier altered. That system stayed in place until 1968, when the basis jumped to 50 points and the multiplier used race distances instead of purses.

But NASCAR was in for some radical changes in 1972. In January, Bill France stepped down as president, replaced by his son, Bill Jr. Also that month, officials decided to make major changes to the existing schedule, removing all dirt tracks, tracks under 1/2 mile in length and any races of less than 250 miles, basically ushering in the Modern Era.

However, NASCAR couldn't quite figure out a simple way to determine a champion. Changes were made in each of the next three seasons, as points were doubled and laps completed were added to the equation, then points were based on total money winnings multiplied by starts divided by 1,000.

With new series sponsor R.J. Reynolds wanting more emphasis placed on the championship -- only six drivers started all 30 races in 1974 -- France turned to Bob Latford, a longtime public-relations official and Daytona Beach native.

Latford started thinking about how to create a simple but elegant point system that took into consideration several key elements: a sliding scale based solely on finishing order, something that would reward consistency and make it imperative for teams to run the entire schedule, and keep the scale narrow enough to provide for late-season championship battles.

Latford, along with public-relations reps Phil Holmer and Joe Whitlock, settled on 175 points for the race winner and using what Holmer referred to as "an accordion" effect to distribute points to each succeeding position. Latford suggested a difference of five points between the top five finishing positions, four points between positions sixth through 10th, and then three points thereafter.

Holmer said he was the one who suggested Latford add a five-point bonus for leading a lap, which then got the three thinking about an additional bonus for most laps led. They also discussed point bonuses for qualifying, but Holmer said they decided against adding anything that didn't have to do with the specific event.

With minor modifications to the number of points awarded to the race winner, that system remained in place for 35 years. Last month, NASCAR chairman of the board Brian France unveiled a "simplified" point system, awarding 43 points to the race winner and one fewer to each succeeding position. In addition, the new system awards three bonus points for winning, plus one for most laps led and one for leading a lap.

And perhaps most intriguing, drivers were required to choose one national series in which to earn championship points.

New point system compared to previous point system

Finishing PositionPrevious Point SystemNew Point 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

Because of that new twist, Trevor Bayne not only joined A.J. Foyt in visiting Daytona's Victory Lane, but in NASCAR's history books.