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Chasers debate bonus points for regular-season leader

September 13, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com



Chasers debate bonus points for regular-season leader

CHICAGO -- For 26 races leading up to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the points leader feels as if he's on top of the mountain.

Then the Chase starts -- and more often than not, the points leader starts below the proverbial treeline, behind several drivers who had been chasing him only a week earlier. Such is the case again this year, with Greg Biffle, who finished the regular season as the points leader, seeded fifth for the Chase.

How they looked

Standings before re-set
Pos.DriverPointsBehind
2. Dale Jr. 902 -12
3. M. Kenseth 897 -17
4. J. Johnson 880 -34
5. B. Keselowski 868 -46
6. M. Truex, Jr. 862 -52
7. C. Bowyer 858 -56
8. D. Hamlin 850 -64
9. K. Harvick 841 -73
10. T. Stewart 810 -104
11. K. Kahne 784 -130
12. J. Gordon 777 -137

How they are

Chase seeds after bonuses
Pos.DriverWinsBehind
2. J. Johnson 3 -3
3. T. Stewart 3 -3
4. B. Keselowski 3 -3
5. G. Biffle 2 -6
6. C. Bowyer 2 -6
7. Dale Jr. 1 -9
8. M. Kenseth 1 -9
9. K. Harvick 0 -12
10. M. Truex Jr. 0 -12
11. K. Kahne WC -12
12. J. Gordon WC -12

As it's currently set up, drivers earn three bonus points for the Chase for each win they rack up during the first 26 races -- as long as they finish in the top 10 in points, as well. The two wild-card Chase entries do not get to carry-over bonus points to Chase. Otherwise, the slate is wiped clean for all 12 Chasers.

It begs the question to again be asked: Should the regular-season points leader receive some kind of bonus for his efforts? Naturally, Biffle said yes at Wednesday's Chase Media Day.

"Jimmie Johnson and some other guys were talking about that a few weeks back," said Biffle, who enters Sunday's Chase-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway with two victories. "Kind of the way I look at it is -- and this is an unbiased opinion, even though I was leading the points -- but it would be very easy, and I think most would agree, that the guy who wins the regular-season points should get a three-points bonus like a win. Because technically it's a win.

"And I don't think anybody would be against that and say, 'Oh, that's outlandish. Or that's too much.' It's basically worth a win in my eyes."

Not so fast, Biff. Not everyone agrees.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., for one, said he likes the way the points are re-set for the Chase just the way they are -- and he's seeded seventh after finishing the season second in points.

"I don't know about points itself. I kind of like the way the points work now," said Earnhardt, who has one win this season. "I think maybe you should get a monetary prize or something -- but I don't even know if that's available in the budget."

Brad Keselowski said he agreed with Johnson's earlier comment that a commemorative T-shirt would be nice, which led Earnhardt to add: "He's just being a smart a**, I'm sure."

Again, not so fast. While Keselowski has been known to tread those waters, he didn't make his comment entirely tongue in cheek.

"I think there are always ideas on how to improve the sport, and the Chase is no exception," said Keselowski, seeded fourth with three wins but essentially tied for second with Johnson and defending champion Tony Stewart. "I thought personally, my favorite idea was when Jimmie Johnson said he thought maybe they should give you a T-shirt. Just a T-shirt would be cool.

"But I'm certainly open to anything. You ought to get something. Maybe the first pit stall throughout the Chase? How about that? That would be cool. Sure, pick something; that would be great. I don't disagree that it certainly would make the regular season more meaningful if the points leader at the end of it got something."

Denny Hamlin, who vaulted into the top seed when the Chase points were re-set by virtue of his series-high four regular-season wins, came down more on the side of Earnhardt's opinion. Leave it alone, he said, or put it in a check.

"It's tough to say. They don't reward the regular-season champion, other than maybe getting a trophy and a banner, for winning your division or whatever in other sports leagues," Hamlin said. "I don't know that they should reward it. If they want to reward something, just reward wins more. It makes us go for it more.

"Maybe realign the purses. The drop-off now is just not that significant. The difference between 20th and fifth nowadays is nearly nothing. If you want us to make the racing a lot more exciting and reward us, reward us more for winning races."

Biffle pointed out that the system being used now was put in place to boost the emphasis on winning races. But he thinks there is a way to continue to reward wins while also rewarding the consistency of those who do well in the points over the first 26 races.

"You have to remember that we've driven ourselves to the edge, where winning is all we care about in the first 26 races -- because that's how we seed the Chase," Biffle said. "But it is and it isn't, because you have to have the points to get into the Chase. So it's a double-edged sword. You've got to have the points to get into the Chase, but then the wins are the only things that get us seeded in the Chase."

"You've got to have the points to get into the Chase, but then the wins are the only things that get us seeded in the Chase."

--GREG BIFFLE

So Biffle has an idea.

"I think there are two issues," he said. "I think the guy who is third in the points should have a little bit of a reward over the guy who is ninth in the points coming into the Chase. I really do. Because the guy in third has proven his team and consistency and competition-wise on the track to be better than the other guy.

"But then what happens is we lose our memory and we say, 'Oh, now they're just points racing. They're not going for wins any more.' That's why we came up with this points system. So I think you can have both. Have both in my opinion -- three-point bonuses for wins, have 1 through 10 maybe get something, too, and leave the wild-card guys out of it. Then you're only one point behind the guy ahead of you, plus however the [bonus points for] wins play out.

"If you looked at how many points there were between me and 10th [before this year's Chase standings were re-set], that's a ton of points. Well, now there would only be nine, plus the wins. Certainly that guy could pass the points leader [figuring in bonus points for wins]. It would still be Denny. I would seed them 1 through 10 and give the regular-season points winner a three-point bonus."

Biffle added that he believes doing so would be the best way to strike a balance between the proper rewards for points and victories.

First place10 bonus points (plus 3 for leading regular season)3 for each win
Second place9 bonus points3 for each win
Third place8 bonus points3 for each win
Fourth place7 bonus points3 for each win
Fifth place6 bonus points3 for each win
Sixth place5 bonus points3 for each win
Seventh place4 bonus points3 for each win
Eighth place3 bonus points3 for each win
Ninth place2 bonus points3 for each win
Tenth place1 bonus points3 for each win
Wild cards0 bonus points0 for each win

"I think that's fair as far as the way our sport is formulated," he said. "That's how we decide the champion. We decide the champion by the best 10 finishes [in the Chase]. We don't care if he wins or not. It's the best 10 finishes. So you're taking the major part of the season and saying, 'We don't care how you finished, whether you're second in the points or ninth. All we care about is how many races you won.' I suppose we're victims of our own doing on that part of it."