News & Media

Notebook: New point system grows on you

May 05, 2011, Dave Rodman,

As the racing season approaches summer, I've become a fan of NASCAR's new one-point-per-position point system.

Granted, there's a lot of racing yet to be run -- particularly in the Camping World Truck Series where only one-fifth of the schedule is typically ever run by this time of the spring. But there's plenty to like.

Look at the Sprint Cup Series, where four different drivers -- Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch -- led the standings in the first four weeks of the season. And in the five races since, Edwards and the younger Busch have swapped the lead three more times.

Sprint Cup Series

2.--J. Johnson326-9
3.+3Ky. Busch305-30
4.-1Dale Jr.301-34
5.-1K. Harvick300-35

And all of a sudden, with Kyle Busch somehow 30 points behind despite winning at Richmond, ol' five-time himself, Jimmie Johnson, has positioned himself to be the fifth different leader this season.

It's a wonderful thing when last year's chief rival to Johnson's championship supremacy, Denny Hamlin, can score a much-needed second-place finish at Richmond, yet move nowhere in the standings. Hamlin did get into position to potentially vault into the top-15 with a similar finish Saturday at Darlington.

And in the Sprint Cup owners' points, the scenario is very similar at the other end of the spectrum. Tommy Baldwin used a well-crafted 13th-place finish to inject his team into the top 35 and a guaranteed starting position at Darlington, even as Golden Corral steps up with added sponsor support.

But behind Baldwin, three teams are tied for 35th, which makes the race to get into the race fascinating stuff.

The Nationwide Series is a touch better than that. Five drivers have already led the points through nine races: Landon Cassill, Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and current leader Justin Allgaier.

Cassill's program was never for the full season, but since the opener, Elliott Sadler and Aric Almirola have surged, and heading to Darlington, six men are within 17 points of the lead. The swapping isn't about to end any time soon -- if it ever does this season.

In the Truck Series, things are still developing after just five races and there are five men separated by just 12 points with the top-four split by just five points. And definite championship contenders Todd Bodine and Austin Dillon are within easy reach.

So if this is what NASCAR's competition had in mind when they devised this system, so far it's been worthy of every sports superlative you'd care to throw at it.

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

Driver Standings: Cup | Nationwide | Truck NASCAR 101: Racing explained

It pays to have friends

Inception Motorsports did a pretty good job to make its first Sprint Cup Series event, and before you dismiss it by saying that all veteran driver David Stremme had to do was beat one team to get a starting spot at Richmond, consider a few things.

Stremme was well up in the running order in both practices last Friday, logging the 29th-best time in P1 -- fourth among the nine go-or-go-home cars. He then finished 24th in P2 and third among the group he had to beat to make the race.

Stremme qualified 16th, just one one-hundredth of a second slower than the fastest go-or-go-homer, Casey Mears. That was damned good work, and having good friends in the NASCAR garage didn't hurt his efforts.

Crown Royal 400

Pos.Dri verMake
2.Denny Hamlin Toyota
3.Kasey Kahne Toyota
4.David Ragan Ford
5.Carl Edwards Ford

Inception crew chief Steven Lane was sitting atop a pit box emblazoned with Pilot Circle J signage, borrowed from Rusty Wallace Racing, who formerly employed Stremme and wished it still had a program for him. The car Stremme and Lane did so well with was purchased from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, where Lane and Stremme teamed for two seasons and did fairly well together.

"We don't really have much at our shop -- we borrowed a lot from Rusty," Lane said. "EGR didn't really want to sell us this car, but we talked them into it -- and yes, it helps when you have friends in NASCAR."

Inception's ownership group includes the McSweeney brothers and the sponsorship on the No. 30 Chevrolet at Richmond -- EchoStar Technologies -- was another example of one hand washing the other. Lane explained it was put on the car as a thank you to an associate of the ownership group that had provided computer systems for the team.

Little Joe's back

Joe Falk is fielding his own Sprint Cup team, tagged LTD Powersports, LLC; T.J. Bell will try to qualify the No. 50 Toyota as one of 46 entries at Darlington. Veteran Jeff McClure is the crew chief.

Crafton diversifying

Matt Crafton has been in the thick of the Truck Series championship all season in ThorSport Racing's No. 88 Chevrolet; but he has a unique doubleheader on his schedule in two weekends. Crafton will compete in the Truck Series at Dover International Speedway on Friday, May 13, then hop a flight to Toledo, Ohio, where he'll compete in an ARCA Racing Series event on Sunday for Kimmel Racing.

Montoya part of Indy test

Juan Montoya joined Paul Menard, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Greg Biffle for two days of testing at Indianapolis this week in preparation for the Brickyard 400 on July 31.

The group got plenty of experience with a variety of tire compounds despite a high temperature of only 60 degrees -- approximately 20 degrees cooler than the probable race day temperature in three months.

"I feel like I'm a lot closer in NASCAR than I was in Formula One, so I'm pretty pumped. "


"It was good," Menard said. "Goodyear is trying a bunch of different things, and we hit on a couple things that will hopefully make a great race even better come July. It's a nice, cool day, and we'll come back in July and it'll be really hot, so times will be a lot slower. You have to take that into account in what you do as a driver and kind of set up trends that we'll apply for July, for sure."

Montoya, who has experience at Indy in the 500, Formula One and stock cars, dominated the 2009 Brickyard before a late pit road speeding penalty doomed his effort. He won the pole in 2010 but crashed while trying to get back to the front with 14 laps left. Montoya says the track owes him nothing.

"To tell you the truth, they gave me a big one at the beginning," Montoya said of his 2000 Indy 500 score. "I got the 500, and that means a lot to me. I would love to get the 400 win, but it's been like it was in Formula One, when every time I came here in Formula One, we were always so close to winning and it never happened. I feel like I'm a lot closer in NASCAR than I was in Formula One, so I'm pretty pumped.

"So we're hoping we can do that here in July, and this is great that Goodyear invited us to be part of this tire test. It helps us get that little edge on the competition. It's always fun and a cool place to run, and it's kind of weird when you come here and there's nobody around, but it's fun."

Montoya will miss the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, due to having conflicting NASCAR events at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"It's a shame that I'm going to miss all of that because I'm running that evening in Charlotte," Montoya said. "I'll have to be focused on what I'm doing."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.